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STORY OF PRIMROSE.
The Story of Primrose (^^^"-^
COMPILED AND EDITED
BY ALBERT BARTON
HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
FEB Zl -aio
CHARLES ELLIOTT PERKINS
TAYLOR A GLEA80N, BOOK AND JOB PRINTERS,
The writing of this history of his native town was not
begun by the writer with any pecuniary end in view. The
very limited number of readers whom he could hope to
obtain must certainly have shown him, had such been the
case, that the time spent in preparing it could have been
far more profitably employed. The work, nevertheless,
has been one of profit, and in the pleasure and knowledge
derived from it, it has brought its own reward. To have
a thorough knowledge of the history of one's region, is
no small satisfaction in itself, and while the story of our
town may not be so striking and romahtic as that of some
of its neighbors, it cannot fail to be of interest to her own
The history is written chiefly for the benefit of the
younger generation, many of whom know little of the
early happenings in their localities and of the privations
of their own fathers and mothers. If this book should
meet with their appreciation the writer shall feel doubly
repaid. It would, of course, have been a happier achieve-
ment had this work been written by some one of the old
pioneers who have witnessed and lived through all the
changing scenes in the town's history, but as no one such
has seen fit to do so, he trusts the work of younger hands
will be spared any censure in undertaking it. The many
errors and shortcomings that the work doubtless possesses,
he trusts will also be treated with consideration.
6 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
In the preparation of this work the writer has been
guided by school, town, county and state records, Mr.
Butterworth's History of Dane County, Wisconsin His-
torical Collections, newspaper files, and among pioneers
besides those whose reminiscences are contained in the
volume, Messrs. Philander Nash, Isaac D. Spears, William
R. Spears, Jno. Jones, C. J. Lewis, Thos. Jones, J. T.
Chandler, G. Gullickson, M. C. Webber, O. G. Stamn,
Ole Osmonson, Eliphalet Thomas, Mrs. G. Tollefson, N.
N. Byrge. Special thanks are due W. W. Patchin for
kindness and interest shown. •
The Story of Primrose.
ORGANIZATION OF TOWN — NAMING OF THE TOWN — SONG OF
When the gold fever was at its height in California,
when Ireland was drooping under her great potato
famine and Europe was trembling from center to circum-
ference at the great French and Hungarian revolutions,
another historical occurrence of no little significance was
consummated in the little city of Madison, Wisconsin.
The nature of this act we gather from the laws of the
State for the year 1849:
Chap. 120 of the Acts and Resolves passed by the Legis-
lature of Wisconsin, 1849.
AN ACT to organize the Towns of Primrose and Perry
in Dane County.
The people of Wisconsin^ represented in Senate and Assembly,
do enact as follows :
Sec. 1. Township No. five north, of range No. seven
east, in Dane Co., is hereby set off from the town of
Montrose and organized into a separate town of the name
of Primrose, and the first town meeting shall be held at
the school house of said town, on the first Tuesday in
Sec. 2. Township No. five north, of range No. six east
in Dane Co., is hereby set off from the town of Montrose
and organized as a separate town by the name of Perry
8 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
and attached to the said town of Primrose for all town
Sec. 3. This act shall take effect on the first Tuesday
of April next.
Harrison C. Hobart,
Speaker of the Assembly.
J. E. Holmes,
Lt.'Gov. and Prest of the Senate.
Approved March 21, 1849.
The bill was registered Assembly Bill No. 85 and was
introduced Feb. 7 by Hon. Ira W. Bird, now living at
Jefferson, Wis., who represented the towns of Madison,
Cross Plains, Clarkson (Roxbury and Dane), Springfield,
Verona, Montrose, Oregon and Greenfield. It was
entered on the proceedings of the house as '' a petition
of Robert Herrington and 19 other inhabitants of Town
5 Range 7, Dane County, for a separate township."
The bill was referred to the committee on towns, of which
Hon. S. H. Roys, a brilliant young locofoco^ was chairman.
On March 16 it was reported back from the senate and
It was originally intended by the pioneers to have the
town called Perry, in honor of the hero of Lake Erie, the
settlers being chiefly Ohio people. But as the postoffice
had received the name of Primrose the legislative com-
mittee thought it best not to name the town otherwise, so
the name Perry was given to the western town.
The story of how the town originally received its name
is interesting and possesses an element of the romantic.
When in 1847 the postoffice was established at the house
of Robert Spears, the question arose as to what it should
be named. The chivalrous pioneers left the choice to the
ladies. After some time Mrs. Spears suggested the name
STORY OF PRIMROSE. ' 9
" Primrose" from an old song in honor of a country lass
that she had heard her father sing beginning:
"On Primrose Hill there lived a lass,"
Mrs. Chandler, however, thought " Primrose '* too sweet
a name and argued for ** Hillsburgh.*' A division of the
house was called and the settlers decided that ** Primrose"
would not be " too sweet."
The song from which the town took its name is sup-
posed to have run somewhat in this wise:
On Primrose Hill there lived a lass.
And aye a bonnie lass was she.
Her charms so fair, none might surpass,
And none withstand their witcherie.
And oft as tripped this lass abroad
The flowers grew fairer round her feet.
More freshly green seemed e'en the sod,
The thrushes song more low and sweet.
By streamlet, grove, and ruin old.
Young Harry woed so ardently,
And whispering cronies slyly told
How Mary soon a bride should be.
Alas, for lovers' gentle hearts.
That wars should rise to work them harm;
From weeping Mary, Harry parts.
His country's weal demands his arm.
The battle's last wild echo dies.
The smoke slow rises from the plain.
Young Harry, foremost, weltering lies.
His bosom pierced, in deadly pain.
His anguished lips, all quivering pale.
One latest prayer of love would frame,
The feeble, faltering accents fail,
And end in murmuring Mary's name.
Peace spreads her wing o'er camp and field,
The cruel war full soon is past.
But who sweet Mary's breast can shield?
What art dispel the coming blast?
They brought young Harry's drooping clay.
His broken mother's cot before.
And thrice sweet Mary swooned away.
And long the secret tear did pour.
10 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
She murmured not, nor hinted ill,
But ere the year its course was flown,
The lovely flower of Primrose Hill,
Slept with her lover neath the stone.
So the beautiful name of Primrose was adopted, and it
was indeed fitting that Mrs. Spears, the first woman in
the town, should have the honor of giving it its name.
Where the Primrose Hill of the song is is not known.
The name occurs in other English ballads and a hill bear-
ing that name lies to the south of London.
STORY OF PRIMROSE.
FIRST VISIT TO TOWN — SURVEY — FIRST SETTLEMENT.
The first white man known to have set foot on Primrose
soil was Eldred S. Hale, who is still a resident of the
town. In 1829 the United States Government purchased
from the Winnebago Indians all of Southwestern Wis-
consin in order that mining might be carried on peace-
• fully, and in 1831 Mr. Hale, in company with his brother
Washington, carried the last load of provisions and pay-
ment to them to Ft. Winnebago (Columbia county).
They journeyed through Primrose over the Madison and
Wiota road, then an Indian trail. Straggling hunters and
prospectors may have visited the town previous to this
time but no evidence of it has been found. After Eb-
enezer Brigham had established his smelting oven at Blue
Mounds, much of the lead mineral from the Exeter mines
was taken to the Mounds to be smelted. This was hauled
by ox teams over the Blue Mounds and Exeter Ridge
road which crossed the Madison and Wiota road just
above the spring by K, Hustad's house, section 19. The
proximity of this spring to the crossing of these roads
12 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
made it a popular camping place for emigrants and miners
and lead Robert Spears to establish the first settlement
and hotel there in 1844.
Major Wm. Deviese, of Montrose, an old Frenchman,
born in the last century, used to relate an incident in his
life connected with this camp ground that may bear re-
peating: ''1 set out from Exeter," he said, "early one
winter's morning to walk to Brigham's, at Blue Mounds.
I had expected to reach Brigham's about two o'clock, so
I stuck only a piece of Johnny cake and a bit of bacon in
my pocket. Soon after I started a most terrific blizzard
set in which drifted my path full and otherwise impeded
my progress. I floundered on, however, and was sur-
prised when I reached the spring on the Madison and
Wiota trail to find that it was night. My Johnny cake
and bacon was long since gone and the nearest house
was at Blue Mounds, nearly ten miles away. There was
no alternative but to build a fire and lay down in the
snow. Of course I didn't sleep any too soundly and I
awoke early the next morning most tremendously hungry.
In the burr oaks around me were roosting large flocks of
prairie chickens, but I had no gun. Just as I was prepar-
ing to resume my march, I saw a hungry hawk swoop
down on one of the birds and kill it. I rushed at him
with my stick before he had time to carry it off and cap-
tured the bird from him. I roasted it in the fire that I
had built and had a most excellent breakfast that
The town was first surveyed into sections in 1833 by
Jas. W. Stephenson. As this gentleman w^s of consider-
able importance in his day, a little further notice of him
will be admissible.
Major James W. Stephenson was one of the prominent
men of the Black Hawk war. He was a close personal
friend of Gen. Henry, and with him, had been arraigned
at Edwardsville, 111., for a high misdemeanor but both
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 13
were acquitted. Previous to the Indian war he was in the
employ of the Galena Mining Company. At the out-
break of hostilities he was commissioned captain. He
found the bodies of Hale* and his companions who had
been killed May 23, and buried them, and on June 8, with
a small band led out to reconnoitre, he fought a daring
battle near Yellow Creek, on the Pecatonica.
In this battle he lost three men and was himself severely
wounded. Three times, with his men, he charged a
thicket in which the Indians were stationed and in which
Black Hawk himself, was said to be hidden. Later, he
was created major and, with eighty Galena men, joined
Gen. Dodge at Deeve's old smelting works on Sugar
River. In various capacities, he served to the end of the
war, being at Fort Winnebago, Blue Mounds and the
A point of interest in Mr. Stephenson's report of his
survey of the town is the mention of an Indian village on
the southern boundary line of section 36.
Robert Spears, the pioneer of pioneers, came to Prim-
rose from Green county, Wisconsin, in the spring of 1844.
There was no settlement within a half dozen miles at the
time, though Robert Oliver, of Montrose, had two years
previously entered some land in section 14. Mr. Spears
entered a claim of 160 acres embracing the region of the
spring on the present K. Hustad farm. Ten acres were
broken and put under cultivation before the little log
♦May 21, 1882, Felix St. Vrain, agent for the Sacs and Foxes at Rock
Island, set out with six others to seek lands for settlement. On the way they
found the dead body of one, Durley, and buried it. Seeing signs of hostility
among the Indians, they debated returning on the night of the 22d. Three
were tor returning and four against, so they struck camp for the night. The
next morning they were attacked near the present station of Polo, on the
Illinois Central R. R., and St. Vrain, Hale, Fowler and Aaron Hawley were
killed. Their companions, Aquilla Ford, McKinney and Alex Higinbotham,
though hotly pursued, managed to escape and finally reached Galena. The
murder of these men precipitated the Black Hawk war. — IVts, Historical
14 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
cabin, the first Primrose home, was built on the identical
spot where K. Hustad's house now stands. In these labors
Mr. Spears was assisted by his nephew Isaac D. Spears.
Mr. Spears came originally from Troy, Ohio. From
the same region came his brothers William and Edmond
Spears with their families about the same time, also
Philander Nash, unmarried, and in 1845 Martin Nash and
and George Patchin with their families. Then, in 1847,
came Joel Smith and David Thomas with their families.
These families were all related in some direct or round-
about way. In 1846 W. W., Stephen G., and E. S. Hale
and Christian Hendrickson settled in the town, and about
the same time or before came Robert Herrington and
Wm. W. Day and Mr. and Mrs. John Craft, the latter
settling in " Miller s Hollow." The other earliest
pioneers among the Americans were Hall C. Chandler,
William K. and Fred Underbill, John Jones, Joseph
Phillips, George Schofield, Robert White, Joel Britts,
Jacob and Samuel H. Nofsinger, Charles and Wil-
mot Marston, Mr. Ford, Martin L. Ashmore, William
G. Dudley, Billings Lewis, the La Follette's, Josiah,
William, Warren, Elhanon, Robert and Harvey; Free-
man Fisher, Jonathan Prince.
Hall C. Chandler and brothers who followed later,
came from Maine via the Great lakes. The Hales, Under-
bills, Jones, Hendricksons and several others came from
the mining regions about Wiota, and the La Follette's,
Britts and Nofsingers from Indiana. Concerning some of
these pioneer families we let their representatives speak
elsewhere. Of these original settlers Mr. E. S. Hale is
alone still a resident.
As nearly as can be ascertained these earliest comers
settled or entered present farms in some part as
follows: Sec. 5, W. W. Hale, E. W. La Follette respect-
ively, on H. Johnson and J. Lingard farms; sec. 6, Ed-
mond Spears, W. G. Dudley, S. H. Nofsinger, Martin L.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 15
Ashmore on Kolve, T. Swanson, Edseth, and Mrs. G.
Halvorson farms; sec. 7, Billings Lewis, Jacob B. Beckner,
on A. Severson and M. Kerwin farms; sec. 8, Wm. Spears,
Jacob B. Nofsinger, Robert Herrington, Wilmot Marston,
on O. B. Skuldt, Syver Skuldt and Baker farms; sec. 9,
Joseph Phillips on G. Gullickson farm; sec. 15, H. C.
Chandler on O. L. Myrland farm; sec. 17, Mr. Ford on
Ole O. Lee farm; sec. 18, Geo. Patchin on C. Engeland
farm; sec. 19, R. Spears on K. Hustad farm; sec. 20, Geo.
Schofield, Underhill brothers, David Thomas on Hefty
and Durst farms.
Brief sketches of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Spears with sup-
plementary history is given elsewhere in this volume by
their son, J. Anderson Spears. They were of sterling
New England stock well fitted for the building of a new
country. Mrs. Spears is described as being especially
amiable and intelligent. A brother. Philander Nash,
writes: " I remember her as a girl in school that she gen-
erally spelled all others down. Her disposition was most
mild and no one stood higher in people's estimation. At
an early age she embraced religion, uniting with the
Methodist church, and she lived her whole life a Christian
The privations of their first days in Primrose were in-
deed many. With scant means, far from any other, cabin
or village settlement, they bravely set to work to rear a
home. Several small children had to be provided for.
What added to their burdens was the necessity of keep-
ing over night emigrants and others who passed by and
of which there were many. Then, in 1847, came the cares
of the postoffice. Mrs. Maria Norris, their daughter,
" When my parents settled in Primrose they had no in-
tention of keeping tavern, but they were forced to keep
people as there was no other settlement near. The
traveled road was on a ridge near by and teamsters in
16 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
passing would see our cabin down in the hollow and come
down, and solicit lodging. Father did not like to charge
anything for this as he had no conveniences, but they al-
ways pressed him to, saying it would not do otherwise.
Sometimes they would stop as early as four o'clock in the
afternoon; at other times they would arrive long after
dark. Many a time was father obliged to get up at night,
take his lantern and guide some traveler dowri who had
left his team upon the ridge, and mother must get up to
prepare supper, often for a house full of guests. Father
and mother thus had plenty of company and were helped
along financially somewhat, but it was hard work for
mother as she had besides this care to do her own wash-
ing and to spin, weave and make clothes for the family.
Mother used to get very homesick and downhearted at
times, thinking of her childhood home in Ohio and she
away off in a wilderness. I was but a little girl at the
time, but I remember her breaking into tears on receiv-
ing letters from her playmates and family. The only
other woman in the settlement for a time was Mrs. John
Craft, who lived in ' Miller's Hollow.' "
Numberless teamsters from the lead mines passed along
the ridges at the time en route for Milwaukee and other
points, and regularly quartered over night with Mr. and
Mrs. Spears. This demand for accommodation caused
Mr. Spears, in 1846, to erect a barn, the first frame build-
ing in the town and which still stands. The siding used
in this barn was hauled in one great load from Sauk
county by pioneer John Jones. The little log cabin was
also added to and made double. In short, the cabin be-
came known along the route as the "Spears Tavern,"
ranking with the "York Prairie House" further on.
While liquor was sold at all other taverns in those days,
be it said to the credit of Mr. and Mrs. Spears, they never
dispensed any, although a sure profit would have followed.
Among the many travelers that stopped regularly at
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 17
this tavern may be mentioned the mail carriers, Joe Pain
and Mr. Eaton; Mr. Ludlow, of Monroe, then a peddler;
Mr. Ryder of Blue Mounds; J. I. Case, a fanning machine
agent; J. and Ed. Shook; "Tom" Haney, of Blue
Mounds; Peter Parkinson, of Fayette; J. Miller, and
Capt. James Biggs, of La Fayette county. It is interest-
ing to note that in later years Prof. John B. Parkinson, of
Madison, while on his way to and from the State Univer-
sity and his home in La Fayette county, frequently
stopped at this same tavern, and likewise the three
Bashford brothers, from the same region, and that still
later the world renowned Ole Bull, while once passing
through the town, stopped and took a draught from its
In 1846, Christian Hendrickson, of
Lier, Norway, settled in Primrose on
the farm now owned by his son James,
being thus the first Scandinavian settler
in the town. In 1848, Nils Skogen set-
^/S'^Bil^ tied on the Henry Samson farm, Salve
"iBKjHl^^^ Jorgenson on the George Bowers farm
wj^^^f^^ and Neils Einarson on the Jonas Os-
christian Hendrickson. mundsou farm. lu 1849. Came Gunof
The First Norwegiaq Settler. Tollefsou, G. Danielsott, Ole Dauielsou,
Ole Tollefson, Peter P. Haslerud, Ole Anderson and Laif
Olson, and soon many other Norwegians, among them
Kittel Moland, Mons Ness. Kundt Bowerson, Lars Hol-
verson, G. Stamn, Niels Olson, Paul Charleson, Filing
Stamn, Knudt and Jens Olson. Ole Skuldt, L. L. Kolve
and Mrs. Jackson and sons. Gunnel and George. During
the years 1853-5 they came in still greater numbers.
Owing to their greater poverty and helplessness, the
sacrifices and privations suffered by these sturdy pio-
neers were even greater than those of their American
brethren, and their story was the common story of the
Norwegian pioneer. But they were bound to succeed.
18 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
Poor in everything but indomitable energy, they came
here to rear homes and become good citizens and no ob-
stacle was too great to be overcome. Thus Mr. and Mrs.
Mons Ness, the first Norse family in the Sugar River
Valley, began with a yoke of oxen, a wagon and a cow,
and Mr. Ness was obliged to cut saw logs at once to ex-
change for necessaries. Their little cabin was floprless
for a time and raised from the ground, so their few sheep
crawled under the logs and quartered with them. The
sufferings of the Tollefson family were even greater. Mr.
Tollefson's parents left their native place in Norway on
foot with their six children and only one hundred and
eighty dollars. Transportation to Havre, France, cost
forty-eight dollars, and they landed in New York with
barely one dollar, and yet Mr. Tollefson's father was the
richest Norseman in the party. Fortunately free trans-
portation was given them to Milwaukee and the winter
was spent in Norway, Racine county. In the early spring
young Gunof started west and by splitting six hundred
rails was furnished a team to bring his people to Jefferson
Prairie. Here a claim was made and lost and the family
then journeyed to Beaver Creek, Boone County, 111., where
the old couple died of typhoid fever. By working out six
years young Gunof saved three hundred dollars, and by
Mexican soldiers* warrants was able to buy his farm in
Primrose. When, in 1850, he married Julia Gunhus, both
were penniless but by hiring out during the summer they
earned a team, wagon and a few tools and began life on
the Primrose homestead. Mr. Hendrickson came to
America in 1842, and worked four years in the lead mines
at Wiota to pay his passage from Norway; and when he
settled in Primrose he had but a yoke of oxen, a wagon,
a cow and seventy-five cents capital. He was, however
welcomed by the settlers who turned out and helped him
build his cabin.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 19
PIONEER COMINGS AND GLIMPSES OF PIONEER LIFE — PIONEER
The main phases of pioneer life are familiar enough
and we will give but a passing glimpse or two.
On the general subject ''Pioneering" we quote the fol-
lowing from the able pen of W. W. Patchin.
" It happens in every community, new or old, that some
fail in the general attempt to obtain homes or amass pro-
perty, either through shiftlessness, lack of ability or u n-
favorable circumstances that cannot be remedied. And
thus it happens that in the older settlements of the east
many people act on Horace Greeley's advice, ' Go west,
young man.* Among such people sorfie are so fond of
change and adventure that the thought of going west or
any where else gives them little trouble of mind. Indeed
they are more uncomfortable if compelled to stay too long
in one place. But on the part of most people, especially
the real pioneer, it required genuine courage to break
away from the old homestead, the old neighborhood, and
every spot hallowed by early associations, and launch in-
to the unknown * far west.'
"If a married man, the pioneer probably pondered this
matter of going west some time before broaching it to his
wife. He might think, 'I have promised to love and cher-
ish her. She should be protected rather than exposed to
suffering, etc.* He might wonder if she could win the
consent of her heart to leave the dear mother, perhaps
never again to see her.
"And this question of going west doubtless engrossed
his thoughts by day and was his dream by night for weeks
and months before the final decision. And after the die
20 STOkY OF PRIMROSE.
was cast, the Rubicon of this final decision passed, then
the parting, the going, the long journey, with all its inci-
dents, its hardships, its novelties, its strange sights; all
these, would be the subject of his thoughts and conversa-
tion until the day of departure. And so for a time life
would be a medley of sad and joyous feelings alternating.
There would be the consciousness of the pain of approach-
ing separation, perhaps forever, and the happy anticipa-
tion and hope of a home in 'the far land.'
''While it required courage on the part of anyone
making such a great undertaking, it required greater
strength and heroism on the part of the pioneer wife than
on that of the husband, for she must rise superior to her
tenderer, greater love of home, friends, family, mother,
in making the great sacrifice. All honor to the brave
pioneers and especially to their heroic wives who endured
so much to lay the foundations for the structure of society
we to-day enjoy.'''
Commenting on pioneer methods of farming Mr.
*'Of course we cut all our grain at first with heavy
cradles and bound it by hand. Oxen were first used to
tread out the grain. A hard, smooth, circular track would
be prepared on the dry ground. Two rows of bundles
would then be laid down, top to top, on this. Then the
oxen would be hitched to sweeps fastened at the center
and driven around until the grain was treaded out. The
straw would then be forked away, the grain, chaff
and dirt gathered up and the process would be repeated.
The grain was later cleaned by being tossed up in the
strong wind. Later treadal threshing machines appeared,
built for two horses. Then came the most curious of all
machines of its kind — the old traveling threshing ma-
chine. The cylinder of this machine was given its motion
by the ground wheels and in order to thresh it was first
necessary to heap on a load of bundles. Two yoke of
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 21
oxen were hitched on and the machine movpd round
about the field, leaving its trail of straw behind until a
second loading was necessary. The first machine of this
kind introduced into Primrose was brought in in the 40's
by Stephen G. Hale, who in 1850 sold a half interest in it
to J. W. Scoville, of Montrose, for $87.
*'The first threshing I saw in Primrose was done by
horses treading out the grain by traveling in a circle upon
it. This mode of threshing was resorted to as often as
necessity demanded a * grist.' And, by the way, the grist
had to be taken a long way to mill. My father took his
to Winnesheik (Attica) , though I believe the Badger Mill
was then running, but unbridged streams intervened. As
I said, the grain was cut almost wholly with the cradle.
Some men could rake up and bind what another man
could cradle. David Thomas was an exceptionally good
• binder. I followed a cradle, but usually as Peter followed
his Lord, — a good way off. I believe the first threshing
machine employed by father was a two-horse tread power
machine which left the grain and chaff upon the ground.
This necessitated fanning mills. Every farmer had one
after a while, but as a rule borrowed his neighbor's.
" Horse teams were less common than ox teams because
oxen were better adapted to the work of breaking the
sod, their 'gearing' being more simple, and especially
because their keeping in summer cost nothing more than
the trouble of turning them loose in the evening and
gathering them up in the morning. At noon they fed in
the yoke. Sometimes professional breakers would appear
with an immense breaking plow drawn by upwards of
seven yoke of oxen, and which turned under all stumps
and underbrush save the very largest. At times the plow
would become so firmly wedged in a . stump that the
* leaders' would be taken back and hitched on to draw it
out. At night they turned their oxen loose and lay out
herding them. Were any of the animals considered too
22 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
wild they would be yoked together by twos, before turn-
ing out. In the morning the man bringing them in would
usually be as thoroughly soaked with dew as if dipped in
a stream." These professional *' breakers " were also-oxen
breakers, securing the services 6f the oxen a season
to pay for breaking them. The breaking was an easy
matter. Hitched to an enormous plow in the center of
a string of well trained fellows, there was but one thing
the poor brutes could do, — go ahead.
One pleasant feature of pioneer life was the fraternal
disposition of the settlers. This was shown especially in
the matter of cabin building. On this point Mr. Patchin
** Cabin buildings were usually most jolly seasons. The
settlers welcomed the new arrival by helping him build
his cabin and were glad of an opportunity to get together
and help each other. In building, four good men, skilled
with axes, stood on the growing building, rising log by
log, one at each corner, to flatten and fit each his end of
the log. During and after the raising there was generally
considerable fun in one way or another, and afterward a
' lunch ' if circumstances were at all favorable. When
in 1846, the pioneers of the southern part of the town
turned out to help Mr. Christ Hendrickson, the first Nor-
wegian settler, build his cabin, so many of them suffered
from the fever and ague that they could hardly raise the
logs, but at dinner Hollis Crocker, of Montrose, found
occasion to remark: 'Boys, there's no trouble with your
lifting now.' But one day was required for the building
of a cabin."
I. PIONEER RECOLLECTIONS — BY W. W. PATCHIN.
My father, George Patchin, was born in Connecticut,
August 6, 1806; my mother, Sophronia Nash Patchin, in
Massachusetts, October 24, 1811. They were married in
Ohio, in December, 1831, and in 1845 they came to Prim-
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 23
rose with their family, traveling the entire distance in a
lumber wagon. In the spring of 1846, they settled in the
town of Springdale close by the " Big Spring" above Mt.
Vernon, my father's being the first cabin in that valley,
the Hale brothers building one about the same time fur-
ther down. Father soon exchanged this place for that of
Philander Nash's in Primrose, afterward owned by Josiah
My pioneer privations began in earnest at the age of
14, when I was made " mail boy " and obliged to carry the
mail on horseback between Madison and Wiota. The
country was wild at the time, the distance between houses
being in one case seven miles.
As we lived nearly equally distant from each of the lim-
its we had to go to Madison to get the mail on one day,
take it on to Wiota and back the next, and on the third
take it back to Madison. Thus I rode on three successive
days of each week, 44, 56 and 44 miles. At first I was well
enough pleased, but the novelty soon wore off. The days
grew shorter and colder and the pleasure gave way to dis-
like and finally to real dread. I rode on horseback, had
nothing but leather boots for my feet and iron stirrups to
put them in, so that I froze them several times. In the
February following my father sold the contract and I was
I might relate many interesting experiences in this con-
nection which, my being but a boy at the time, made a
distinct impression upon me. I was frequently compelled
to be out late at night, and on one cold evening returning
from Madison, I stopped at Mr. Flick's, at Verona Cor-
ners, to warm myself, and falling asleep was persuaded to
remain overnight. I would often do^e in the saddle; prai-
rie chickens would scare my horse so that I would nearly
fall off, and at night I would watch the bushes for dread-
ful things to spring at me. One evening returning from
Wiota, about two miles past Capt. Jaines Biggs' place
24 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
some hogs skulking in the grass frightened my horse so
that he threw me and left me behind. I started for
Green's Prairie about three miles away; I inquired for
my horse there, but he not having been seen, I set out
across the prairie for the home of William Spears, reach-
ing there about 11 o'clock. The next morning I met my
father and a neighbor hunting me up. The horse was
found feeding at the roadside, having stepped over the
rein with his hind foot.
I carried a little spending money on my trips for emer-
gencies, and one day finding a pair of buffalo overshoes at
Wiota I bought them, expecting a scolding on returning
home. In this respect, however, I was happily disappointed.
These overshoes were perhaps the first introduced into
Primrose, and my father was thoroughly reconciled after
testing their comfort.
As illustrative of small business, the postmaster at
Madison would deduct a little from our quarterly pay if I
failed to be "on time" with the mail.
At that time there were about a dozen pine trees, some
of them over a foot in diameter, growing on the Mt. Vernon
bluff, and were a beautiful sight. The Mt. Vernon saw
mill, the first in that section, was built by George Britts in
1852, just between the present grist mill and the road.
Mr. Britts, received the most of his help and his timbers
from the farmers of Primrose.
My mother, Mrs. Sophronia Patchin,died after a linger-
ing illness of dropsy of the chest, Jan. .27, 1851. Her re-
mains were buried on my fathers farm, a short distance
north of the old log school house, but were later removed
to Evansville, Wis. A large circle of mourners were pre-
sent at the funeral,* besides father and five children were
her two brothers and two sisters and their families.
The funeral sermon was by Rev. J. E. Davis from
Job 14:14: ** If a man die shall he live again: All the days
of my appointed time will I wait till my change come."
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 25
Hymns were sung, ** Asleep in Jesus" and ** Dearest
mother, thou hast left us."
A WOLF KILLED.*
As early as 1844, a wolf was killed near the house ot
Robert Spears by Philander Nash. Early one morning
Mr. Nash and MA. Spears heard the poultry making a
great noise and looking out they saw a wolf near the hen
house. Mrs. Spears handed her brother a gun from her
bedroom, and he opened the door slightly and fired. The
wolf jumped forward and fell, but soon got up and ran
away, leaving a trail of blood. His front leg had been
broken near the shoulder. Mr. Nash went to Millers
Hollow, a mile southeast, and got Bob White and his two
dogs. The dogs were put on the trail and in five minutes
brought the wolf back. He ran around the house several
times, attempting to get in, but the door was kept shut.
After fighting the dogs awhile, he started off again but
soon came back and crawled into a clump of willows,
when Mr. Nash took an axe and killed it.
Among the early settlers there was almost entire respect
for the '* claims " of others. They still belonged to the
government and any man mean enough could pre-empt
one or pay the full price and the land was his. I recall
only one instance of this dishonesty. Mr. Ford pre-
empted the claim of his son-in-law, Wilmot Marston. For
this Ford was given a frightful mauling one night by un-
known ruffians, presumably the Marstons. But the set-
lers became so indignant towards Marston for his treat-
ment of Mr. Ford that a large number gathered one
* Wolves were extremely numerous and troublesome to the farmers of Prim-
rose until within the last twenty years. Liberal bounties have brought about
their complete destruction. The number killed since that date are given:
1875, by John Schwartz, 5; 1877, Moses E. Burns, of Exeter, killed 19 in the
towns of Primrose and Oregon; 1879, Moses E. Burns, 9; 1882, N. N. Byrge, 1;
1884, George Hendrickson, 8; 1885, N. S. Randall, 7 cubs caught in Perry and
killed at Chairman Baker's house; 1887, N. S. Randall,5; 1888, N. S. Randall,
6; 1891, Andrew Herth, 1; 1893, N. S. Randall, 7.
26 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
evening at the Marston house, without notice to the family,
to try to persuade Mr. Marston to make amends. Whether
they succeeded or not I do not now recall but the two in-
cidents served to deter others from lawlessness.
Concerning this gathering, Mr. Philander Nash says:
*' I was surprised to see so many men^ together. I could
not imagine where they all came from. They looked a
resolute set, and some of them must have come a great
distance.** After this occurrence, Eliphalet and Franklin
Thomas and I pooled our wits and composed a long dog-
gerel song, set to the tune of * Old Dan Tucker,* celebrat-
ing the event, which passed the rounds of the neighbor-
hood. I recall but one stanza:
" It was over a hill and in a hollow,
An old man lived, — now mark what follows,
He did pre-empt his son-in-law's claim,
And the son-in-law said he'd mar his brain."
" So get out of the county you heartless wretches.
You stole his money tho' you left his breeches," etc.
Thus we divided the honor of the laureateship with Mr.
Concerning the first charivari, Mr. Patchin writes:
. '*One of the first persons to die in the town after our
arrival was Mrs. Joel Smith. Mr. Smith lived just across
the road from our place. In due time Mr. Smith was
again married, and as the Thomas boys had known him,
when living in Ohio, to have been an enthusiastic leader
to give newly married couples a *' horning,** we decided
to let Joel try for once to see how it would be to be made
the object of fun himself. So we took guns, tin pans and
cow bells and went to enliven the night around his
house. Bang! bang! bang! three guns, and then the pans
and bells! and then — we ran — more frightned really for
fear of being caught, than Joel and sweetheart. But the
joke came in when I found that I had left my powder horn
behind. I knew that Joel would find it in the morning if
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 27
I left it, and would recognize it at once, so I got up very
early and recovered it."
Our early Primrose life was, on the whole, most enjoyable.
Friendliness and hearty good will characterized society
generally. People made no display in attending church.
Religious worship was simple and sincere, people were
not ashamed to come to church in wagons or on sleds
drawn by oxen. In fact, this was the common mode of
travel unless by foot. It has been said that if one would
enjoy life thoroughly, he should always be on the frontier,
and I believe there is, on the whole more of human kind-
ness and sympathy and hence enjoyment among pioneers
than is found in older and richer communities.
II — BY ASHLEY C. THOMAS.
David Thomas was born in Stafford, Vermont, Septem-
ber 24, 1800. He removed to New York when a boy, and
in 1826 married Miss Clarissa Bliss, of Victor, Ontario
county, New York. In 1834 they removed to Geuaga
county, Ohio^ and in the summer of 1847. with their
eight children, came to Primrose, Wis. Father located
on section 20. He acted as chairman of the town board
for a year, and as justice of the peace off and on until
about the year 1860. While filling this latter office he
joined in marriage three couples, D. H. Eastman and
wife, Joseph A. Britts and wife, and a Norwegian couple
whose names I have forgotten. Father died in Primrose
The first school house in Primrose was a log cabin built
by the settlers of the Spears settlement in the spring of
1848, and the first term of school was taught by Miss
Martha De Corso, of Utica, Wis. The house stood in the
edge of a grove and was used as a school house until about
1857, after which Ole Osmonson used it as a stable. When
we first came to Primrose there were but two Norwegians
in the town. Christian Hendrickson and his sister Mrs.
28 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
Religious services in those days were held in the log
school house and the farm houses, and were well attended.
An incident of one comes to mind. We were seated one
Sunday afternoon at service when an adder dropped from
the ceiling and fell into Eunice Corbin's lap. She jumped
up with a light scream and dumped it out on the floor,
whence it slid through a knot hole and escaped. At an-
other service, the enthusiastic preacher turned his eyes
full upon me and said imppressively: **The serpent is
always near thee, brother." I was sitting against the wall
at the time and happened to glance around, when I saw
an adder on the log right behind me. I beckoned to Mr.
Holden, who was near, and he arose and with a knife sev-
ered its head from its body.
When we arrived in Primrose, we lived with Robert
Spears until we could build. The settlement then con-
sisted of Robert Spears and family, Geo. Patchin and
family, Mr. Phillips and his two sons, Daniel and John,
Edmond and Wm. Spears and their families, Samuel Nof-
singer and family, Mr. Schoville and family and son-in-
law, Wm. Underbill, Billings Lewis and family, Robert
Herrington and family and Jacob Nofsinger and Jacob
Beckner, single men. George Patchin and family lived
on the La Follette farm, in a double log cabin which stood
where the present frame house stands.
Mrs. Joel Smith was the first person in the town to die
after we arrived. Her remains were buried in the hill
north of the old log school house (Rock Hill, ed.).
The first winter after our arrival there was plenty of
game. We often saw as many as thirty or forty deer in
a drove. My brother Frank and I once came upon a
small drove and I shot one. Frank wanted to shoot one
too but I made him wait until I had loaded again when
they were gone. At another time, on a New Years' Day,
Frank and I and Wallace Patchin, while out hunting deer,
saw some animals go into a hollow stub about 12 feet high,
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 29
We Stopped up their hole and went home. The next day
was Sunday but our fathers, Deacons Patchin and Thomas,
and we boys, went back to the stub, thinking we had
trapped bear. Frank and Wallace took home a neigh-
bor's dog that we had borrowed and the rest of us went
on. Becoming tired of waiting for them, we cut into the
roots of the stub and took out our game, which proved
to be **coon." There were five and we killed them
before the other boys returned. In the meantime they
had shot a deer, so on the whole we had good luck, but
the two deacons came near being ** churched*' for break-
ing the Sabbath, and Wallace Patchin writes: "Three
boys were in danger of violating the scriptural injunction:
* Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,* for we had
had the solemn. Sabbath promise from the other boys and
the deacons that they would not pitch into the fun until
we got around.**
A party of Indians were once encamped in our neigh-
borhood in the early years and made themselves obnox-
ious to the settlers by stealing- potatoes, chickens, etc. A
committee was appointed to notify them that they would
have to leave the country. They asked how many men
would come to drive them off and were told " twenty,**
"hump ** they replied "we no go for twenty.'* On the day
appointed the settlers armed themselves and sought their
camp but the enemy had disappeard, so that in a way they
did not "go for twenty.**
Some Indians once came to the cabin of "Billy** Under-
bill (on the old Thomas farm), "Billy** was not in and
his young wife being greatly frightened crawled under the
bed and would not come out though they entreated her
to do so. At length " Billy ** arrived on the scene. They
told^him his "squaw was pretty but she wouldn*t come
Wolves were numerous and ravenous. Farmers in
going out to do their chores in the morning would often
30 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
find that the snow around their log stables had been beaten
into hard paths during the night by these animals trying
to get at the sheep within. A young man named Luther
Green claimed to have had a lively race for life with them
one night, and exhibited sundry cuts in his coat made by
a knife with which he defended himself. The most cele-
brated hunters of the early days were Jacob B. Beckner
of Primrose, *' Tom '' Bentley of Springdale and John B,
Brown of Perry.
One winter there was great excitement in our region
over *'mad dogs,** a young man named Fairbanks had a
hand to hand fight with one. He had no weapon but suc-
ceeded in keeping it off by vigorous kicking. One dog
came by our house and was seen to froth at the mouth and
to have fits. The alarm was given and my brothers Eli-
phalet and George came from the field and, after follow-
ing the animal nearly a mile, killed it with a shot gun.
Despite the fraternal disposition of the settlers which
made life so pleasant, there were occasional exhibitions
of ill will. One in particular I remember. A family
named Marston lived in the Spears settlement. (Baker farm
ed.) It was rumored that they were familar with ways
that were dark. A little old man known as "Old Ford*'
had put up a cabin rather too close by to suit the Mar-
stons, (on the present Ole O. Lee farm — ed.) perhaps
with the intention of jumping their claim. Be that as it
may, one dark night the old man's cabin was torn down
over his head and he was taken from his bed by unknown
ruffians and dragged through the bushes and briars and left
in a most forlorn state. It is needless to say that he did
not rebuild his cabin nor press his claims to the land.
Shortly after this occurrence a sensational article con-
cerning the Britts family appeared in the New York Led-
ger. It was reported that a gas cave had been discovered
near Mt. Vernon and that while certain members of the
Britts family were exploring it the gas caught fire from
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 31
the pipe of one of them and the cave and the whole party
was tlown up. The idea of the hoax originated with some
enemies of the Britts* and as no such cave was known to
the early settlers, the Britts' were simply blown up on
In those days our mode of farming was necessarily very
primitive. The grain was harrowed in with a wooden
toothed harrow, a single shoveled plow, usually manu-
factured by some blacksmith, was used for cultivating the
corn, wheat was at first threshed out with a ** traveling
separator*' which received its motion from one of the
wheels and threshed while on the road, stopping to take
on sheaves when necessary.
Some of the farmers built their own wagons, wheels being
made by sawing off a** cut*' from some oak log, each ** cut'*
making one wheel. These wagons were known among
the Norwegians as ** Kubberulles." They were clumsy
affairs and made either night or day hideous with their
At first all grain was marketed in Milwaukee. Mr. Pat-
chin, Hall Chandler, and father hauled many a load of
wheat there, and received from forty to fifty cents a bushel
for it. Two weeks were sometimes required for a trip, as
they would often have to unload several times while on
the way. While on the journey they camped out wher-
ever night overtook them, sleeping under their wagons
with their muskets handy. Mr. Patchin. Andrew Nash
and many others also hauled a great deal of lead from
the mining regions to Milwaukee, camping out in like man-
ner. The greater part of the wheat was sold at Luding-
ton's old warehouse in Milwaukee. In 1850 a market was
established at Moscow, Wis., and wheat bought there at
fifty cents per bushel.
32 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
Ill — BY J. A. SPEARS.
Robert A. Spears, son of a Revolutionary soldier, was
born in Canada, July 24, 1814. Served a time in Co. H,
8th Wis. Inf., during the war. Died Feb. 10, 1867. Buried
at Belleville, Wis. Betsey Goold Spears (Nash), his
wife, was born in Massachusetts, Dec. 10, 1814. Died
Jan. 8, 1883. Grandmother Spears and her family and
Grandfather Nash and his family moved to Geauga
county, Ohio, where my parents met and were married
April 11, 1838. Two children were born to them in Ohio,
when in the fall of 1842, they set out for Wisconsin, with
a horse team and a covered wagon. . Their son, J. A.
Spears, the writer, was but six weeks old when they
started on their perilous and tedious trip. They had a
hard time getting through and I was once taken so sick
that they had to lay over for a week on the road. Father
brought with him his mother and his brother William's
wife, William following soon afterward. The first year
my parents settled in Monroe, Green county, Wis., and
farmed it, when they moved to Green's Prairie and spent
another year. In the spring of 1844, father took a pre-
emption claim of 160 acres near the spring in Primrose,
and built a log house. Their privations there can be
better imagined than described, so I will not touch on
them to any extent. On December 23, 1848, was born a
brother. Perry N. Spears. He died in infancy, October
15, 1850. There were ten children in our family, eight
born in Wisconsin.
Wheat was the staple on which the farmers depended
and father hauled many a load to Milwaukee, often not
getting enough to pay expenses, as the journey required
from nine to twelve days. To help defray expenses he
would make it a point to load back with goods for mer-
chants. Just as father was beginning to see daylight
ahead and the road began to look smooth, I burned up
his stable and 300 bushels of wheat, father just getting
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 33
his horses out in time to save them. Some of us children
were playing with fire and it got the start ot us. At an-
other time my sister saved my life from an angry sow who
had downed me for stealing one of her pigs. It was a
most fearful fright to me.
Indians, bears and wolves were very troublesome.
Father was often obliged to get up in the night to drive
the wolves from his pig pen. Indians were not danger-
ous but they camped around, begged, stole ears of corn
for their ponies and dug up seed potatoes. Uncle William
once gave $10 to some of them for a pony tor his son and
the third night it was missing and was never seen again.
Our luxuries were few. We had plenty of venison, and
father kept a great many bees, but luxuries like salt her-
ring and store molasses were indeed rare. Our clothing
was home spun, of flax and wool, but we thought it fine
enough. For the young folks there were plenty of dances
from one cabin to another after a time, and on the Fourth
of July the neighbors would often meet and some one
would read the Declaration of Independence and make
appropriate remarks while the young people would amuse
IV — BY ELDRED S. HALE.
I was born in the state of Tennessee in 1816, and came
to Primrose in December, 1845.
My father was drawn to the lead regions of northern
Illinois and was killed by the Indians there in the Black
Hawk War of 1832. I served in Fort Wiota as a guard
of the women and children during that war. The year
before this (1831) , I made a wagon trip with my brother
** Wash '' from Wiota to Fort Winnebago. We went over
the present road leading from Mount Vernon to Postville,
which was then only an Indian trail, and carried with us a
load of goods for the Indians and their last payment for
their lands. We camped out wherever night overtook us,
34 STORY OP PRIMROSE.
propping up our wagon pole with a stick and throwing a
canvas over it for a tent. We came back around Lake
Mendota at Madison, the region being then, of course, a
wilderness. Madison then contained only one building, a
small double log cabin occupied by a Frenchman and his
Winnebago wife. In one end of his cabin, the French-
man sold whisky to the Indians, gradually diluting it
with water as they became more and more oblivious until
finally he sold them pure water which passed all right.
I brought the first span of horses to Primrose I believe.
We had no roads in those days, of course, but we got along
any way, all we needed was an ax to cut our way through
the woods and a spade for cutting down the embankments
of the streams in crossing.
Wood and water determined cabin locations. The
rivalry for rails was very strong as there was not then a
quarter of the present amount of woods. Destructive
prairie fires would sweep over the country. Game, especially
of the smaller kind, was exceedingly plentiful, so much so
that I have seen small knolls covered with rabbits and
other small game during the progress of a prairie fire.
Roving bands of Indians were quite numerous at first but
they gave but little trouble. Our land was obtained at
$1.25 per acre. We had to go to the land office at Mineral
Point to get our deeds. The early settlers usually walked
there and came back the next or the third day. When I
came here, there were but three or four settlers in the town,
the Spears brothers, Geo. Patchin, Robt. Herrington and
Jos. Phillips, I think. They were strung along the ** Spears
Valley" as we called it; Robt. Spears living on the pres-
ent Knudt Hustad farm and his brother William on the
present Ole Skuldt farm. The first school house in the
town was built in the ravine, just between the present
house and barn of Ole Osmundson. I helped to draw the
logs for the same. The first marriage in the town was
that of '* Billy'' Underbill and Miss Scofield, of Montrose.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 35
The next, that I remember, was that of Robert Herring-
ton and Phoebe Phillips, and as I helped t<^bring this one
about I will tell you what I remember of it. Phoebe was a
daughter of Joseph Phillips and had already been married
to a cousin named Phillips. For some misdemeanor this
husband had disappeared or had landed in some peniten-
tiary and Phoebe, having obtained a divorce wished to
marry Herrington. The father objected to their scheme
but was, as usual, outgeneraled by the young folks. One
morning, in the winter of 1847, I started for Wiota with a
load of corn, and coming by Herrington's, who lived on
the present Baker farm, he stopped me and asked me
if I could take him and Phoebe out to Squire Wheeler's,
who lived in a log cabin upon a small hill near the pres-
ent asylum in Verona. They wished to get married and
as I had the only horse team in town he wished I would.
I told him I thought I could' when I returned and was ac-
cordingly told to hurry back and keep "mum" to Old
Phillips. I was detained three or four days, however, but
when i returned, I rigged out a little sleigh that my
brother and I had built for running around in, and with
this I finally brought them to their destination.
The Indians all knew us Hale brothers and were afraid
of us as they knew we hated them for killing our father.
Once in the early days, my brother ** Wash" saw an In-
dian chasing a deer over the hill past my cabin here. He
took down his rifle and went out to meet him, but the In-
dian was afraid and fled back westwards. ** Wash ** fol-
lowed him until he reached their camp on the Barton
farm. He walked right into the camp with his rifle on
his shoulder and told the Indians they must " puccagee "
(get out) . They feared us and in a day or two were gone.
V — BY MARY L. PARKINSON (tHOMAS) .
We append a most interesting letter from the pen of
Miss Thomas (now Mrs. Parkinson) descriptive of the
36 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
country school of that day and of the old-fashioned
My first school in District No. 2 was held in a log cabin
on Mr. Britts' farm and was arranged as it best could be
for the accommodation of perhaps fifteen pupils. Seats
in those days consisted of long plank benches ranged
around the room, not very convenient nor comfortable,
as some of the little fellows could testify to who had to
occupy them, sitting with their feet dangling about half
way to the floor. No wonder their little minds were not
in a receptive mood at all times. The desks were nearly
as primitive as the seats, consisting of slanting boards,
fastened to the wall, not very convenient for exercises
in penmanship, as the pupil had to turn around in order
to get to the portion of desk allotted him. We had no
black boards nor any of the helps and conveniences
found in the pleasant school r6oms of to-day.
In our early days in Primrose, spelling schools were the
delights of young folks. Large crowds would flock to
them on the bright winter nights. In the spelling school
proper the usual mode of procedure was for two ** cap-
tains" to cast lots to see who should have the first choice.
The best spellers were usually chosen first, but sometimes
if the " captain *' had a sweet-heart in the crowd she would
be chosen first through courtesy. One person was ap-
pointed to mark all the words missed on both sides. If
one side missed a word and it came back to their side
and was spelled correctly it was saved. After spelling in
this way about an hour they would stand up to '* spell
down.** One rule observed was that if one side missed a
word and the other spelled it, the best speller on the los-
ing side would be chosen to go over on the winning side,
so that sometimes one ** captain" would be left standing
alone. Another method was to have the one that missed
sit down and the contest then became exciting as the
number standing diminished. Finally the last hero or
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 37
heroine of one side would go down and the contest was
over. This ended, an intermission would follow which
gave an opportunity for pleasant conversation and for the
boys to get permission to see safely home the girls of
The second part of the session was consumed in ''speak-
ing pieces," holding dialogues, and enacting tableaux.
The orations of our country's master minds would be
strikingly reproduced at times and comic and pathetic
renditions would be interspersed.
Sometimes a blood-curdling tragedy would be played,
one in particular was a favorite, in which an old Peruvian
was dragged in, examined, questioned and finally cut
down with a sword or shot dead on the spot and then
dragged out. Such numbers served to keep up the ex-
citement of the evening, Then the scene would change
and an old man, bent with care and tottering under his
weight of years, would enter. Clad in the garb of
poverty, he presented a most pitiable spectacle as in a
husky, trembling voice he would pray:
" Pity the sorrows of a poor old man,
Whose trembhng limbs have borne him to your door.
Whose days are dwindled to their shortest span,
O give relief and heaven will bless your store."
Then the going home! Here a jolly sleigh load jingling
along; there a happy loitering couple; here a merry party
setting out on foot across the bright, white hills; and,
lastly, the sedate old folks and the teacher bringing up
the rear. No one who has ever experienced them can
forget those happy winter nights with the hills and forests
ringing with the songs, the shouts, and the responses of
the parting friends.
Well, the old spelling school is a thing of the past but
its joys and memories still survive.
38 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
VI — BY JOSEPH A. BRITTS.
Mr Joel Britts was the most extensive farmer of Prim-
rose in his day, owning the present Konle and Lewis Rue
farms. Young men out of employment could always turn
to him for work. An interesting letter from his son
Joseph A. Britts follows.
My father, Joel Britts, was born July 5, 1806, in Bote-
tojfflrt county, Va. He grew up there and, at the age of
twenty-four married Saloma Nofsinger. In 1836 he moved
to Montgomery county, Indiana: He lived there until the
spring of 1848, when he moved with his family to Prim-
rose, Wisconsin. It was on the 22nd day of May, 1848,
that we came to a halt where the village of Mt. Vernon
now stands. Father had came out to Primrose in 1847
and had taken up two hundred acres of land which inclu-
ded the present site of Mt. Vernon and had left money
with uncle Jacob B. Nofsinger to pay for building a house.
When we arrived in the following May the house was not
completed and we stopped the first night with Uncle and
and the next day moved to another uncle's, Sam Nof-
singer's place, just above our old Primrose home. Soon
after father bought the claim of Ed. Spears, sec. 8 (the
present Konle farm, ed.) and we commenced the building
of a larger house.
Now my pioneer days began in earnest. Owing to so
much other work as breaking, putting up hay, etc., our
house was left unfinished and when we awoke on the mor-
ning of November 1, 1848, we found it snowing heavily
from the north-east. Ten inches of snow had fallen and
it fell every other day for a month. We had the deepest
snow that winter that I have ever seen. Deer and wolves
were equally plentiful at the beginning of that winter, but
at the end it was all wolves and no deer. The wolves
being able to run on the crust of the snow killed off the
deer. The same winter father hired a young man named
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 39
John T. Berger to survey his land, and it was a good
season for such work as we could walk on the crust but a
sharp stick was needed going up or down hill.
Mr. Berger was a Pennsylvania German and still lives at
In the summer and fall of 1850, we built a log school
house in our district. Wallace Patchin was my first
teacher. Soon after school began father spoke of going to
Madison and I put in to go along. I wanted to see the
little town that was the capital of the state. Father did
not like the idea of my staying out of school, and also
said if I went I would have to put up a load of oats to sell
as he had no money to pay hotel bills. I put up the oats
and we set out. I was then thirteen years old and how
well do I remember that ride! I remember how Josiah
Matts, then living in a log cabin near Verona Corners, came
out as we passed, smiling all over and after the handshak-
ing and mutual inquiries of health, said he had had '* a
streak of luck." He had been down to Badger Mills a
few days before with a grist and the miller had told him
if he would bring him a load of such wheat he would pay
him the Milwaukee price for it. " So yesterday,'* he said
*'I took down a load and got forty-five cents a bushel and
I have the money right here," he added, slapping his
Well, we got to Madison that day and sold the oats to
Tibbetts & Gordon for twelve and one-half cents per.
bushel. I carried them up stairs into a barn, then up a
foot ladder and emptied them into a bin. I looked all
over the little city of Madison and then went home to
The gas cave story concerning our family was concocted
by '* Steve'* Niles and ** Jim" Dudley, a pair of mischie-
vous slinks. No, father never climbed " Devil's Chimney"
but in 1850 he and Ephriam La FoUette climbed the high
rock on the McCord farm near the big spring above Mt.
40 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
In 1855, a family named Ho3rt came out from the state
of New York and settled on the Byam farm just above
ours (the present Lewis Rue farm,ed.) and soon one after
another went down with t)rphoid fever until all but the
father were prostrated. The mother and a ten year old
son died and we buried them on a knoll just across the
creek north-east of our house. A little brother of mine
was also buried there. A lilac bush marks their graves.
Primrose was an excellent stock and grain country in
those early days. We raised some splendid horses, cattle
and hogs and, though we had to cut our hay with a scythe
and cradle our grain, we often put up one hundred tons of
fine timothy and clover, and grain accordingly. Our society
was better than 1 have ever known it since in a farming
community, we had good common schools, as well as
singing and spelling schools. We had a fine class of young
people and I look back on my pioneer days in Primrose
as the happiest of my life. I always had to work hard
and knew something of privations but that only fitted me
the better for after life, especially for the war, in which I
and two younger brothers served for three years. Father
died in 1876, mother in 1880. Father was a miller and
followed the milling business up to the time he moved to
Wisconsin. He was a man of good judgment, was methodi-
cal in his business and strictly honest in his dealings with
his fellow men.
VII — BY GUNOF TOLLEFSON.
From Knud Langeland's work *' Nordmaendene i Amer-
ika," we quote the following in regard to the coming of
the Tollefson family to Wisconsin:
'* When they arrived at New York, a man named Bakke
gave them a passport to Milwaukee where they arrived in
due season. This city was then on the outskirts of civil-
ization and there were few Norwegians in Wisconsin,
Tollefson and his family in company with Lars Domme-
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 41
rud went to Muskego, where they met, among other
countrymen, Even Heg, Reimert and Soren Bakke.
Shortly afterward, he went further west and worked for
one Sherwood who lived near Clinton in Rock county.
" I split six hundred rails in order that I might borrow
Sherwood's wagon and yoke of oxen with which to bring
my parents to Rock county. Being unused to driving
oxen and being desirous of meeting my parents as soon
as possible, I drove the animals too hard, and it was not
long before they became tired and lay down and I was
unable to move them. In this difificulty, I gave them some
ears of corn and after a while they got up and walked
forward after me. This happened oftener, and, at last,
whenever the animals wanted corn they simply laid down,
and before they received it they would not stir from the
spot. I then conceived the idea of hanging a couple of ears
of corn on my back and by walking before them induce
them to travel. In this way I made some progress and
finally reached my parents. On the home journey, we
traveled more leisurely. I have often thought that Sher-
wood showed me an unusual kindness and confidence in
thus letting a newcomer and a stranger take his oxen for
so long a journey and without knowing whether I could
drive them or not.
Being desirous that I might own a piece of land as soon
as possible, I went to Primrose in 1849. Here I met Niels
Einarson. There was plenty of land to be had, but how to
find the description of what I had chosen was the question.
After considerable search, we found a large oak tree a
short distance east of where Norman Randall lives; on
this tree we could plainly see these letters and numbers:
N. W. }i, S. 23, T. 5, N. R. 7, E. There was neither pen
nor paper to be had without traveling miles away and
something had to be done immediately. I borrowed an
axe of Einarson, cut down a little poplar tree, and hewing
42 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
a piece thin and smooth took my jacknife and cut in it
the letters and numbers exactly as they were engraved on
the tree. With this poplar board under my arm, I walked
to the land office at Beloit and laid it down with the nec-
essary money. The clerks were greatly amused at my
novel description and one of them cried: **Ha! Ha! Ha!
boys, come down and see this Norwegian's description."
They understood it, however, and I obtained the land^
Among other reminiscences Mr. Tollefson says:
" When I first came here, the large oak trees in front
of my house were so small that we used to spread our
washing upon them to dry. Deer could be seen to graze
in large flocks around our doors. Indians were numer-
ous and a picturesque Indian village stood on the knoll
between the Colby Cheese Factory and the river. • The
Blue Mounds ridge road was traveled to considerable
extent even then, and, wishing to meet our countrymen
who might pass along upon it, Knudt Bowerson and I cut
a path to it through the woods and nailed on a tree, a
board with this inscription: '*Vil nogen mode med
Norskere saa kom ned her." (If anyone wishes to meet
with Norwegians, come down this way.) By this means
many emigrants from our old fatherland were brought
to us, among them old Bor Borson. When I came here
the land was nearly all held by Mexican soldier warrants.
I was the first to pay tax in money in the town. I could
not raise the required six dollars in three towns and was
afraid my land would be sold. While in this quandary I
met Hall Chandler one morning and he said to me:
" Gunof, have you paid your taxes yet?" "No," said I.
" Well," he replied, *' I tell you what: You have two pigs,
I have none. I have two wolf scalps over home. Give
me one pig for them and you can get your money." I
jumped at the chance, took the scalps and walked to
Madison the next day, where I obtained the bounty and
paid my tax.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 43
"When I came back, I saw a man cutting down trees
on my land and I approached him to form his acquaint-
ance. * Hello! how are you?' said he. * Have you bought
this land?' *I have/ said I. 'All right/ said he, 'these
logs are yours then. I supposed this was government
timber, but if you have bought the land they are yours.
Fd rather have a good neighbor than all the logs.' That
was my first meeting with Hall Chandler. Two years
later when I returned to take possession, the four logs
were still lying where cut.
" Like most pioneers, we stole all our timber for rails
and buildings from the government lands. But we had
to haul it away as soon as cut as anyone could claim it.
Hall Chandler would set out in the morning with his oxen
and split 50 rails till noon, loading them on as he split
them, and repeat it in the afternoon. We fenced only
our fields and meadows in those days, pasturing in com-
mon, and the early records of the town are filled with
notices of estrays.
" I was the second man to buy land in Pi*imrose, Rob-
ert Oliver, of Montrose, having previously bought eighty
acres of the present O. Hanna farm. Salve Jorgenson
offered me his claim of 160 acres for $20. He had broken
four acres also, and had built a cabin 10x12 feet square,
thatched with brush and sods, but I preferred the farm I
" Before the coming of Elling Eielson to Primrose some
of the Norwegians were distressed to see their children
grow up long-haired and unbaptised. How to get them
baptised was the question. Finally, in 1850, Rev. J. W.
Dietrichson, of Koshkonong, offered to meet the farmers
at Thore Spaanem's home, in Springdale, if they would
raise $10 for him. By hard canvassing, the $10 was raised
and the farmers hitched up their oxen and took their
precious hopefuls to Springdale and had them baptised.
I think John Hendrickson and Ole ToUefson were among
44 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
EARLY BIRTHS — DEATHS — MARRIAGES — UNDERHILL - SCO-
The first white child born in Primrose was David, son of
Mr. and Mrs. George Patchin, whose birth occurred No-
vember 22, 1845. Other early births were: Perry N., son
of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Spears, born December 23, 1848,
George, son of Mr. and Mrs. Billings Lewis, 1849. The
first child born to Norwegian parents was John Hendrick-
son son of the first Norwegian couple in the town.
The first of the pioneers to die was Mrs. Joel Smith who
passed away within half a year after coming to Primrose,
dying in March, 1848, doubtless from the privations
endured in the long overland journey from Ohio. Her
remains were buried on the farm near the site of the pre-
sent Rock Hill Cheese Factory, nearly all the settlers
turning out to this first sad funeral service. Other early
deaths were Perry N. Spears, Oct. 15, 1850; Mrs. George
Patchin, Jan. 27,1851; Mrs. Joseph Phillips, 1851; ''Grand-
mother'* Spears, a Revolutionary widow, died at a great
age in 1852. Mrs. Phillips' remains were buried in the
town of Montrose a short distance east of '* Devil's
Chimney." A burial ground, the first in the town, was
early prepared just west of the site of the present Rock
Hill Cheese Factory, and thither the pioneers took their
first sad pilgrimages with their dead. Coffins were made
at home from the black walnut trees of the forest and
the graves were unmarked by monuments, flowers alone
testifying of love and remembrance.
As the early settlers moved away, the soil these dead
had civilized was not allowed the peaceful mingling of
their bones and the remaines were generally transferred
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 45
by relatives to other cemeteries. The walnut coffins on
being exhumed were often found in a good state of preser-
vation. A most astonishing find was made in 1866, when
digging into the grave of " Grandmother'* Spears, for the
purpose of transferring her remains to Moscow, Wisconsin,
the body was found to have petrified. In the removal,
the head was broken from the body. Two graves still re-
main untouched. They are to be seen under the wire fence
by the road-side, but, neglected and unmarked, will soon
be obliterated and forgotten like those of the dusky
Indians before them.
THE FIRST WEDDING.
The first marriage to take place on Primrose soil was
that of Wm. K. Underhill to Miss Mary Scofield, by
** Squire " Nathaniel Wheeler, of Badger Prairie, Verona,
Dec. 23, 1846. The wedding was celebrated at the little
cabin of the groom's brother, Fred Underhill, a mile east
of Robert Spears' home.
William K. Underhill and his brother Fred came to
Primrose from Philadelphia, where Fred had just mar-
ried Elizabeth, a sister of Mary Scofield. William
Underhill was a man of some education and was the poet
of the settlement, writing many songs for occasions and
being always ready to sing or play the violin. Miss Sco-
field was but 14 years of age at the time of her marriage
and is described as *' a very handsome and pleasant girl,"
an opinion shared by the Indians as Mr. Ashley C.
Thomas tells in his reminiscences. Nearly all the settlers
of the town turned out to make merry this first glad oc-
casion of its kind in the settlement. The ceremony was
performed in the afternoon of a bright winter's day. A
supper followed, bountiful as the scant means of the day
afforded, at which venison and vegetables, grouse and
johnnycake were pressed upon the merry guests. No dan-
cing was indulged in owing to lack of room but throughout
46 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
the night the young folks held high carnival
playing games while the genial bridgroom sang his joUi-
est songs or convulsed the company with witty tales.
Contrary to the traditional custom at backwoods weddings
the officiating squire was not paid in butter or sausages
made by the bride's own fair hands, but in cold cash.
The next marriage in which both parties were from
Primrose was that of Robert Herrington and Mrs. Phoebe
Phillips, who were married by the same officer at his home
in Verona. An interesting account of the event is given
by Mr. E. S. Hale in his recollections. Other early mar-
riages were: Philander Nash, Caroline L. Miles, December
15, 1846, at Verona; Jacob B. Beckner, Mrs. Betsey Craft,
December 13, 1847, by George Patchin; Wm. W. Day,
Lucy Prince, February 23, 1848, by George Patchin; Jacob
B. Nofsinger, Polly Ann Spears, March 11, 1848, by George
Patchin; Stephen G. Hale, Mary D. Wright, January 25,
1849, by A. Ogden, Madison; E. S. Hale, Mary Jones, May
27, 1849, by J. B. Waterbury, Verona; Daniel Phillips,
Alvina Nash, September 11, 1849, by George Patchin,
Springdale; Joel Smith, Mrs. Kelley, 1849, at
Attica, Wisconsin; B. F. Thomas, Jane R. Spears, Sep-
tember 12, 1853, by J. E. Davis, Primrose.
The first Norwegian couple married in the town was
Jens Olson and Kari Skarhaug, who were married in 1851
i by Mr. Gabriel Bjornson. Three years earlier. Nils N.
Skogen had married Ellen at Clinton, Rock county,
Wisconsin, after he had settled in Primrose.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 47
FIRST TOWN MEETINGS — TOWN BOARDS — CLUB LAW RESOLU-
TION AND RESULT — LIST OF TOWN OFFICERS.
Among the earliest records found bearing on the town is
a justices' docket kept by George Patchin who had been
elected justice of the peace while the town was still a part
of Montrose. The docket covers the years 1847-8. Sev-
eral petty actions are recorded, chiefly in regard to debts
and horse trading. The first entry is Oct. 15, 1847 and re-
lates to a horse trading suit between Elisha Carver and
William K. Underbill.
When the first town meeting was held, Tuesday, April 3,
1849, the clerks and inspectors of election were sworn be-
fore Mr, Patchin. This historic first town meeting was held
in the little log school house that had just been built and
the poll list appended below shows who were present.
Poll book of the first annual election held in the town of
Primrose, Dane county, Wisconsin, 3d day of April, 1849.
Voters names: Joseph Phillips, Robert Spears, Jonathan
Prince, Stephen G. Hale, George Patchin, Charles Mars-
ton, Joel Smith, William Spears, William W. Day, John B.
Brown, Jacob B. Nofsinger. Daniel Phillips, Eliphalet
Thomas, Freeman Fisher, Martin L. Ashmore, Robert
Herrington, David Thomas, John Jones, Eldred. S. Hale,
Billings Lewis, Samuel H. Nofsinger, H. C. Chandler,
Henry Vanderbilt, Jacob Beckner, Joel Britts.
The result of the first election was to give an office to
almost each man. We submit a copy of the original
TALLY BOOK — VOTES RECEIVED.
For supervisors: David Thomas, chairman 22
Samuel Nofsinger 22
Freeman Fisher 23
48 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
For Clerk: Robert Herrington 19
For Assessor: H. C. Chandler 19
For Collector and Treasurer: Billings Lewis 22
For Superintendent of Schools: Joel Britts 23
For Justices of the Peace: David Thomas 21
B. F. Denson 22
George Patchin 15
Jonathan Prince 20
M. Ashmore 7
For Constables: Joel Smith 22
J. B. Brown 23
J. B. Nofsinger 15
For Overseer of Roads: Robert Spears 12
We the undersigned clerks of the board of electors
hereby certify that the foregoing is correct.
This 3d day of April, 1849.
The honor of being the first office holder in the town
after its organization, doubtless belongs to Robert Her-
rington, who on April 11, was sworn in as town clerk be-
fore Justice George Patchin. On the same day. Treasurer
Billings Lewis and Constable Joel Smith were also sworn,
in before Mr, Herrington. The officers elected were sworn,
some before Justice Patchin, and some before Mr. Her-
rington, in the following order: April 13, David Thomas,
chairman; Hall C. Chandler, assessor; April 14, Freeman
It would appear, however, that office -holding did not
exercise that singular fascination over those sturdy
pioneers that it does over their successors, for on the 7th
day of May the following petition, signed by twelve
voters, was laid before the town clerk:
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 49
To the Clerk of Primrose:
We, whose names are hereunto affixed being duly quali-
fied voters in said town, do request you to notify a special
town meeting for the purpose of filling vacancies which
have been made by non-acceptance of office. Also to see
if the town will vote to raise money to defray the charges
and expenses arising in the town, and all other business
necessary to be done.
In obedience to this petition, a special election was
called, and on May 29 thirteen voters appeared at the
school house and voted as follows:
For supervisor, J. B. Nofsinger received 13 votes.
For school superintendent, Joel Britts received 12 votes.
For justice of the peace B. F. Denson received 5 votes.
For constables, Wilmot Marston received 8 votes and
J. B. Brown 5 votes.
For sealer of weights and measures, Joel Britts received
Of these officers John B. Brown was sworn in on the
same day; Wilmot Marston on June 4, and Jacob B.
Nofsinger and Joel Britts on June 6.
The next election was held September 3, of the same
year, when twelve voters assembled to vote for a county
judge. Three candidates were voted for, John Catlin re-
ceiving two votes, Joseph Prentiss two, and Julius T.
If the argument that the exercise of suffrage is con-
ducive to intelligence and good citizenship, then the
pioneers of Primrose certainly had a rare opportunity for
benefiting themselves, for on the 6th of November we
again find them at the polls, holding now the fourth elec-
tion in the first year of the town's history. As this was
for the election of state officers, we might expect a full
attendance, and such we find to be the case. The twenty-
five voters entered on the poll list for the first election.
50 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
were all present save two. A partial result of this elec-
TALLY BOOK — VOTES RECEIVED.
For Governor: Alexander L. Collins 9
Nelson Dewey *. 13
For equal suffrage to colored persons, Yes 8; No 9.
David Thomas, Chairman,
November 6, 1849.
The political complexion of the town at the time may
be gathered from the result. On the question of granting
equal suffrage to colored persons which was then submit-
ted to the people there appears to have been some indif-
ference and less pronounced views.
The expenses of the town for the year 1849 were $63.00,
of which Robert Herrington received $12.25 for services
as town clerk, and Joel Britts, as town superintendent, $13.
Ten dollars were voted for town expenses and ten for
schools. The chief work done by the first town board
was the laying out of a road, June 27, 1849, from the south-
west corner of the town to the northeast corner. J. T.
Berger acted as surveyor. Other surveyors of the early
days, to digress a moment, were Hall C. Chandler, James
Edi and G. W. Reilly.
The laying out of roads was the chief work of the town
boards for the first dozen years. Roads were chiefly estab-
lished by pioneer usage before they were legalized. As
one old settler says ''wherever a spring was found, there
a cabin was built and the location of the cabins determined
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 51
largely the first roads/' One of the first established was
the road running northward past the Town Hall to Mt.
Vernon, another, the one running east and west between
sections sixteen and seventeen from Chandler s to Josiah
La Follette's. October 6, 185U a road was established
from the Blue Mounds and Monroe road to the Madison
and Wiota road, running between sections five and eight.
The greater number of these early roads have been re-
laid and changed at various times.
At the second town meeting (1850) Joseph Phillips was
elected chairman of the board of supervisors.
One of the most important things done at this second
town meeting was the passing of the following resolution:
Resolved, That we. whose names are hereunto affixed,
do agree to protect each and every citizen in his claim
and residence who will pay the sum of $5.00 on each
quarter section so claimed, and in proportion to the value
or amount of claims on smaller parcels, which shall be
paid on the subscription of such claimant for the purpose
of aiding to pay the taxes assessed on resident citizens'
land to defray the town expenses; and, further, that we
do not agree to protect any man's claim who refuses to
comply with the foregoing.
Joel Britts, B. Lewis,
Jos. Phillips, Jacob B. Beckner,
M. L. Ashmore, Robt. Herrington,
Benj. F. Denson, David Thomas,
S. H. Nofsinger, John Jones,
Lars Holverson, George Patchin,
Robt. Spears, Anon Jorgen,
Stephen G. Hale, Christian Hendrickson.
Edmond Spears, Reuben Selby,
Nils Olson, Dan'l Phillips.
H. C. Chandler, Eldred Hale,
Wm. Spears, Charles Marston.
52 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
It appears that some of the settlers were in danger of
losing their lands through claim jumpers, and hence the
fraternal bond was signed. The resolution became noted
in the early town's history as the " Club Law."
It was soon demonstrated that this action on the part
of the settlers was a wise one. Early the next year, 1851,
they were unexpectedly called upon to deal with a case
which for a time threatened to create open warfare with
a neighboring town.
Albert Bowker, of Montrose, had cut down some logs
on Widow Jackson's farm, at present owned by H. Hoesly.
Knowing that a gang of men would come to haul them
away, the Primrosians determined to forestall them, and,
in obedience to the " club law,*' they spread the " message
of war *' and rallied at night. They elected Nils Olson,
who lived on S. Ellingson's farm, as captain, and set out
before daylight to be on hand in good season. Early as
they were, however, they found the Montrosians there
ahead of them with one large log already loaded which
they were hauling away. Capt. Olson stepped up before
the Montrose team and raising his axe above his head
yelled, ** Whoa!'* He then shouted to Mr. Gunof Tollef-
son: "Gunof, drive up alongside there with your sleigh.'*
Tollefson obeyed, and the log was promptly shifted from
the Montrose to the Primrose sleigh. The captain of the
Montrose forces blustered, and to show his defiance began
cutting at the root of a large tree. The Primrose cap-
tain, who was a monster in size and a man not to be
'* bluffed," then sprang forward and began cutting at the
tree over his small opponent's head saying, tantalizingly,
'* I will cut over your head and you can have the stump."
Being a foreigner, perhaps Olson did not speak very
plainly. At any rate, the Montrose captain retreated,
charging Olson with having threatened to cut off his
head, saying: " I'll have him in Madison in the morning."
The Primrose men then hauled the logs' into a pile and
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 53
soon had the pleasure of seeing the would-be depredators
go home empty handed.
The town officers since 1849, as nearly as can be ascer-
tained from the records, are given below.
1850 — Joseph Phillips, chairman, John Jones, Edmond
Spears; Robert Herrington, clerk; Billings Lewis, treas-
urer; Hall C. Chandler, assessor; Joel Britts, T. superin-
tendent; Billingis Lewis, S. H. Nofsinger, constables; Joel
Britts, sealer wts. and m.
1851 — H. C. Chandler, chairman, Peter Peterson, S. H.
Nofsinger; Jos. Phillips, clerk; Benj. F. Denson, assessor;
Billings Lewis, treasurer; Joel Britts, T. S. and sealer;
Lars Holverson and S. G. Hale, road overseers.
1852 — H. C. Chandler, chairman, Peter Peterson, S.
H. Nofsinger; J. La Follette, clerk; B. Lewis, treasurer;
H. C. Chandler, assessor; W. G. Dudley, T. S.; Joel
Britts, sealer; Lemuel Green, Jos. Phillips, justices.
1853 — Josephus Chandler, chairman, A. Sanderson, B.
Lewis; J. La Follette, clerk and assessor; Norman Rand-
all, treasurer; W. G. Dudley, T. S.; Ben. F. Thomas, con-
stable; David Thomas, justice.
1854 — Josephus Chandler, chairman, Billings Lewis,
David Thomas; F. F. Abbott, clerk; N. Randall, treas-
urer; J. La Follette, assessor; W. G. Dudley, T. sup't.
1855 — Josiah La F^oUette, chairman, G. Tollefson,
Jos. Phillips; H. M. La Follette, clerk, resigns and W. G.
Dudley appointed; Gunnel Jackson, treasurer; N.Rand-
all, assessor; Chas. A. Judd and Peter Bell, justices; Bill-
ings Lewis, T. sup't.
1856 — John L. Lewis, chairman, N. Randall, B. Lewis;
H. M. La Follette, clerk, resigns and H. A. Smith ap-
pointed; Jos. A. Bell, treasurer; N. Randall, Thomas D.
Francis, T. S.
1857 — Josephus Chandler, chairman, Freeman Ash,
Thos. Nelson; H. A. Smith, clerk; G. Tollefson, treasurer;
Joel Britts, T. S.
54 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
1858 — Norman Randall, chairman, Freeman Ash,
Peter Bell; F. F. Abbott, clerk; G. Tollefson, treasurer;
D. H. Eastman, T. S.
1859 — G. Tollefson, chairman, on resignation of H. M.
La Follette; H. A. Smith, clerk; W. C. B. Weltzin, treas-
urer; B. S. Jain. T. S.
1860 — H. M. La Follette, chairman, G. Tollefson; H.
A. Smith, clerk; W. C. B. Weltzin, treasurer; Benjamin
Jain, T. S.; David Thomas and Peter Bell, justices.
1861 — Moses Chandler, chairman, Thos. Nelson, C. F.
Weltzin; F. F. Abbot, clerk; W. C. B. Weltzin, treasurer;
N. Randall, assessor; Geo. W. Reilly, T. S.
1862 — D. H. Eastman, chairman, C. F. Weltzin, G.
Tollefson; F. F.Abbot, clerk; W. C. B. Weltzin, treasurer;
K. Bowerson, assessor; G. W. Reilly and Thos. Newton,
1863 — Moses Chandler, chairman. Thos. Newton, G.
Tollefson; W. C. B. Weltzin, treasurer; K. Bowerson, as-
sessor; Randolph Fairbank and Freeman Ash, justices.
1864 — N. Randall, chairman, Thos. Newton, G. ToUf-
son; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; C. F. Weltzin, treasurer.
1865 — Moses Chandler, chairman, Thomas Newton, G.
Tollefson; W. C. B. Weltzin, derk; C. F. Weltzin, treas-
urer; K. Bowers, assessor.
1866 — George Fulton, chairman, Christ. Hendrickson,
Thomas Chantland; S. Holland, clerk; O. S. Holland,
treasurer; C. J. Weltzin, assessor.
1867 — George Fulton, chairman, Christ. Hendrickson,
Thomas Chantland; S. Holland, clerk; O. S. Holland,
treasurer; C. J. Weltzin, assessor.
1868 — George Fulton, chairman, G. G. Hanna, Christ.
Hendrickson; S. Holland, clerk; G. Tollefson, treasurer;
K. Bowers, assessor.
1869 — S. Holland, chairman, Eli Peterson, G. G. Gun-
hus; G. G. Hanna, clerk; T. Thorstenson, treasurer; K.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 55
1870 — S. Holland, chairman, G. G. Gunhus, John Hol-
lar; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; N. N. Byrge, treasurer; K.
1871 — W. C. B. Weltzin, chairman, G. G. Gunhus, K. Pe-
terson; Ole Barton, clerk; Wm. L. Hollar, treasurer; G.
1872 — W. C. B. Weltzin, chairman, resigned and Chas.
Dixon appointed, P. O. Baker, K. Peterson; Ole Barton,
clerk; N. N. Byrge, treasurer; D. H. Eastman, assessor.
1873 — Chas Dixon, chairman, P.O. Baker, T.Simon-
son; Ole Barton, clerk; N. N. Byrge, treasurer; D. H. East-
1874 — Eli Pederson, chairman, T. Simpnson, H. H.
Rindy; O. G. Stamn, clerk; Jno. Peters, treasurer; G. Tol-
1875 — W. C. B. Weltzin, chairman, Ole Barton, P. O.
Baker; O. G. Stamn. clerk; Ole Osmundson, treasurer; Eli
1876— W. C. B. Weltzin, chairman, Ole Barton, P. O.
Baker; O. G. Stamn, clerk; J. G. Hanna, treasurer; Eli
1877 — M. F. Van Norman, chairman, D. H. Eastman,
P. O. Baker; Ole Barton, clerk; Ole Osmundson, treasurer;
Eli Pederson, assessor.
1878 — M. F. Van Norman, chairman, D. H. Eastman,
P. O. Baker; Ole Barton, clerk; Ole Osmundson, treasurer;
Eli Pederson, assessor.
1879 — P. O. Baker, chairman, H. H. Rindy, D. H. East-
man; Ole Barton, clerk; Ole Osmundson, treasurer; Eli
1880-81 — P. O. Baker, chairman, O. P. Myrland, N. O.
Holman; Ole Barton, clerk; H. H. Rindy, treasurer; Eli
1882— P. O. Baker, chairman, O. P. Myrland, A. S. Hol-
land; Ole Barton, clerk, H. H. Rindy, treasurer; Eli Peder-
56 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
1883 — P. O. Baker, chairman, M. Hobbs, L. E. Lewis;
Ole Barton, clerk; N. N. Byrge, treasurer; Eli Pederson,
1884 — Same as 1883 except, H. H. Rindy, assessor.
1885 — P. O. Baker, chairman, M. Hobbs, O. E. Stamn;
N. N. Byrge, clerk; G. G. Stamn, treasurer; Eli Pederson;
1886— P. O. Baker, chairman; M. Hobbs, H. H. Rindy;
N. N. Byrge, clerk; G. G. Stamn, treasurer; Eli Pederson,
1887-88 — P.O.Baker, chairman, O. E. Stamn, John
Tascher; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; G. G. Stamn, treasurer;
Eli Pederson, assessor.
1889 — Ole Barton chairman, O. E. Stamn, M. Hobbs;
W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; G. G. Stamn, treasurer; Eli Ped-
1890 — Ole Barton, chairman, Chas.Danielson,M. Hobbs;
W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; Wm. Dahl, treasurer; Eli Peder-
1891 — Ole Barton, chairman, C. Danielson, Chr. Enge-
land; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; Wm. Dahl, treasurer; Eli
1892 — Ole O. Stamn, chairman, Chr. Engeland, John
Tascher; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; Wm. Dahl, treasurer;
Eli Pederson, assessor.
1893 — Ole E. Stamn, chairman, Chr. Engeland, M.
Hobbs; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; Wm. Dahl, treasurer; Eli
1894 — Ole Barton, chairman, Gullik Anonson, C. Dan-
ielson; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; Wm. Dahl, treasurer; Eli
1895 — O. E. Stamn, chairman, G. Anonson, C. Daniel-
son; Wm. Dahl, clerk; G. S. Engen, treasurer; Eli Peder-
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 57
PRIMROSE POST OFFICE — THE FIRST SCHOOL — BUILDING OF
A SCHOOL HOUSE — FIRST TEACHERS.
The need of postal facilities was early felt by the pio-
neers and was remedied through the efforts of Robert
Spears and George Patchin, by the creation of Primrose
post office, April 29, 1847, with Robert Spears as the first
postmaster, and his cabin home as the post office. It was
this post office (as we have noticed) , which later gave the
name to the town. Although her husband was commis-
sioned postmaster, it was Mrs. Spears' distinction to pre-
side over the office and to distribute the mail to the
expectant neighbors on their weekly gathering at the
office. A mail route was established from Madison via
Primrose, to Wiota (La Fayette County) , a distance of
fifty miles. Mr. George Patchin took the first contract
for carrying the mail for $160.00 per year, trips to be made
weekly. He associated with him Mr. Fred Underbill who
furnished a horse and its keeping while Mr. Patchin fur-
nished the " mail boy " in the person of his son Wallace,
then fourteen years old. Trips were made on horseback.
About the same time a line was established between Blue
Mounds and Monroe, on the Blue Mounds and Exeter
Ridge road. Mr. Patchin was succeeded as mail carrier
by ** Joe*' Pain and the latter by J. Eaton, a historic figure
who served a long term. Changes in the postmastership
have been many: Sept. 16, 1850, George Patchin became
postmaster; June 21, 1851, Robert Spears again took charge;
May 26, 1854, David Ash; May 11, 1865, Freeman Ash;
May 24, 1867, William L. Hollar; Feb 13, 1868, John Hol-
lar. On Nov. 22, 1870, Jacob G. Hanna was appointed
postmaster and the office was removed to the center of
58 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
the town. Changes in the postmastership since are: Feb.
1, 1877, Annie G. Hanna; March 29, 1887, Lars Peterson;
May 2, 1887, Ole Peterson; Dec. 19, 1889, William Dahl.
The early pioneers of Primrose were not slow to appre-
ciate the value and advantages of schools. In the fall of
1847 we find them in the woods cutting and hauling out
logs for a school house. The building erected was a small
one and stood about midway between the present residence
and barn of Ole Osmonson. A grape vine now marks the
exact site of the first temple of learning built on Primrose
soil. Who the first teacher was is a matter on which the
memory of the early settlers disagree. The honor appears
to lie between Miss Martha De Corso of Utica, Wisconsin,
and William K. Underbill, with the probabilities in favor
of the former. No records have been found to settle the
In 1857, this building was given up as a school house
and a new one of frame was built just back of the present
Rock Hill Cheese Factory, the old one being stultified into
a stable. In 1873 this second building was removed to
its present site. Among those who have been employed
as teachers of this school may be mentioned Mrs. R. G.
Siebecker and Mrs. Florence Campbell Reed, the popular
author of Madison. R. M. LaFollette was a pupil of this
school as late as 1873.
On the organization of the town Mr. Joel Britts as
superintendent of schools promptly set to work to redis-
trict the town and to urge the erection of new school
houses, and soon four more cabins dedicated to education
were in process of construction.
The districts as organized by him have, naturally, all
undergone numerous transformations since.
On March 6, 1850, the following report of District No. 1
appeared: No. of pupils who have attended during year,
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 59
26. School taught three months by Nathan A. Munn.
Wages paid (by special act) per month, $13. Resident
children of school- age in District No. 1, Primrose, male,
18; female, 8.
George Patchin, Clerk.
On Sept. 1, 1850, reports were received by the town
clerk from all the districts as follows:
Dist. No. 1, No. of pupils who have attended, 48. School
taught six months, by N. A. Munn, at $13.33; by Adora
Doolittle, at $6; money received from town superintend-
ent (by special act), $38.33; money raised by district,
$18.00; all paid for teachers wages. Log school house on
state land, worth $50.00; has no conveniences for pupils.
Books used: •McGuffey's Readers, Kirkland's, Grammars,
Olney's Geography, Adam's and Smith's Arithmetic,
District No. 2 — Pupils, male 16, female 6; No. who
have attended, 20. School taught three months by Mary L.
Thomas at $5.00 per month. Days lost by absence, 586.
Books used: McGuffey's Readers, Webster's Spellers.
Log school house, not finished.
Wm. G. Dudley, Clerk.
District No. 3 — Pupils, male. 8; female, 7. School
taught three months by Almira M. Comstock at $1.25 per
week. School visited by board three times; by superin-
tendent two times; by parents three times. Log house
with stone chimney. Books used: Sander's Readers,
Jos. Phillips, Clerk.
District No. 4 — Pupils, male, 13; female, 14. No school
taught this year. Money raised by free will of people,
$7.50. House of logs, hewed and raised and nothing
more. Money all gone to house; site one acre.
G. Jackson, Clerk.
District No. 5 — Pupils, male, 14; female, 13. No school
John Copsey, Clerk.
60 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
At the same time Sarah E. Wildeman taught the first
school in the town of Perry (District No. 6), at $5.50 per
month. It is interesting to notice with what solicitude
her experiment on the minds of the young hopefuls of
the Buffalo town was watched, as in her short term of
three months, she was twice visited by the town superin-
tendent, ten times by parents and ten times by the officers,
an example to be commended to the parents of to-day
who have the welfare of their children and of the public
schools at heart.
What an interesting spectacle one of these early schools
would be to our eyes to-day! The little log school house
with its stone chimney and surrounded by the green walls
of the forest; its desks and straight backed seats formed
of split logs; what a contrast to the comforts of the country
school house of to-day! And yet there is reason to be-
lieve that the attendance and scholarship in the earliest
days was almost as high as the present, which is perhaps
to be accounted for by the fact that the majority of
the pioneers of Primrose were Americans and of an in-
telligent, public spirited class. In one respect, the schools
of the present have an advantage — they have better
teachers. In pioneer days the teachers were chosen
promiscuously from among the young people of the
neighborhood. Often the only test of one's qualifications
to teach would be the signature of the applicant s name,
around which the board would gather, in all gravity, and
exchange weighty opinions, as to its proofs of ability. These
teachers were paid one dollar a week and upwards, and
usually had the pleasure of ** boarding around." The
patience that these early martyrs to the diffusion of
knowledge possessed is shown in the case of the first
teacher in District No. 2, whose wages ($1.25 per week in
1849) had risen, in the same district, after ten years of
toil and expectation to the handsome sum of $14,00 per
month, over 100 per cent.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 61
Their proficiency can be judged from a report sent by
one '* school ma'm " to a parent, in which, traced in
labored pothooks, she informs the father that his child
has made good progress in ** wrighting and spelling."
Spelling was in fact the one branch cultivated with gen-
eral avidity. Next to this came declamation, — and thanks
to McGuffey's Readers, their spirited speeches of Web-
ster and Clay, in favor of liberty and union, reproduced
at the spelling schools, kindled the first sparks of patriot-
ism in many a breast and brought many to the support of
the old flag in the crisis of '61.
The first school in District No. 2 was a three months* sum-
mer term taught by Miss Mary L. Thomas, daughter of
David Thomas, the first town chairman. The school was
held in a small log cabin on the Lewis Rue farm, the site
being marked by a few burr oaks just west of Mr. Rue's.
Joel Britts had built this cabin for some purpose or other
but had left it unfinished, and while the new school cabin
was being built on the present school site, this one was
improvised for temporary use. Miss Thomas' wages were
$1.25 per week. An interesting letter from her descriptive
of the school is found elsewhere. Her school opened on
May 27, 1850, and twenty pupils ranging in age from four
to eighteen years crowded into the little cabin. The
pupils were from the Britts, Dudley, Ashmore, and Jones t*
The next year a three months summer term was taught
by Miss Almira Comstock, who taught for many years
throughout the town.
William Wallace Patchin, son of George Patchin fol-
lowed, teaching the first winter term in the new school
house. Mr. Patchin^was then nineteen years of age and
had spent the summer of 1851 at school in Grass Lake
Academy, Michigan, being thus the first Primrose youth
to push on for a higher education than local means afford-
ed. That this action was appreciated by his neighbors
62 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
is evidenced by his being paid the extravagent sum of $12.
per month and board, and by the presence of the first
teacher, Mary L. Thomas, as a pupil under him. About
the same time, Caroline E. Thomas, of Primrose, opened
the first school in what was later known as the ** Martin"
District, Blue Mounds.
It may be interesting to trace the various steps in the
building of a school house, and accordingly we include a
few entries f ron the records of District No. 2, the only dis-
trict that contains complete records from date of organ-
ization. The records though few, reveal much, and we let
them speak for themselves.
We Joel Britts, William G. Dudley, clerk, John Jones,
director, and M. L. Ashmore, treasurer, agree to build the
school house in the northeast quarter of the southwest
quarter section 6. Log house, 16x18 feet, hewed inside.
Primrose, Dec. 22, 1849.
Log subscription — Joel Britts, 10; John Jones, 4; Sam-
uel H. Nof singer. 4; Jacob Beckner, 6; M. L. Ashmore, 8.
The above is a list of logs to be delivered on the site
of the district school house, each person whose name
supersedes the number of logs to get one half such num-
ber 18 feet long and the other half 20 feet for district
No. 2 in the town of Primrose. The price of the logs is
40 cents per log.
The above agreement and subscriptions were made at
the house of Joel Britts, Dec. 22, 1849.
February 20th, 1851.
To Samuel Nof singer, a taxable inhabitant of District No.
2, in the Town of Primrose:
You are hereby requested to notify every legal voter
of said district to attend a meeting called for the pur-
pose of changing the school house site, and for voting a
tax on the taxable property of said district for building a
school house, and also for fixing a time when said house
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 63
shall be finished or made sufficiently comfortable to
accommodate a summer school. Meeting to be held at
the house of William G. Dudley, on Saturday the first
day of March next, at two o'clock P. M. By reading this
notice in the hearing of each such voter, or in case of
his absence from home, by leaving thereat a copy of this
notice at least six days previous to "the time appointed
for said meeting.
Dated at Primrose the day above written.
Done by request of five legal voters of said district and
William G. Dudley,
The school house was built on the identical spot where
the present one stands, but for a few years no provision
was made to secure a deed to the site. By petition a
special meeting was finally called, whose action we glean
from the following:
March the 24th, 1853.
We, the undersigned legal voters of District No. 2, in
the town of Primrose, do hereby request the clerk of said
district to notify a special meeting of said district for the
purpose of taking measures to obtain a title to the school
house site agreed upon at a special meeting of said dis-
trict held March 1st, 1851, and in case a title is not ob-
tained to agree upon some other site upon which to build
a school house, and also to take measures to obtain pay
for building the house on the former site, and also to take
measures to get the use of the district library.
School District No. ^, Town of Primrose:
I have examined the instrument of writing that you
left with me and I find that a deed to the school house
site described as you have described it will not be a suf-
ficient deed, and as you, the subscribers of said instru-
ment, majority of the district board, took the responsi-
bility to meet and make out the said description without
64 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
notifying me, you had better finish up the business, as I
am not willing to write out a deed that will not be a good
Signed by the minority of the district board.
April the 4th day, 1853.
William G. Dudley,
Finally, on April 12, 1853, a deed was given by Joel
Britts and Salomy Britts to one acre for the small sum of
one dollar. The residents specified also that this site
might be used as a public burial ground, but none availed
themselves of its use. A few who died were buried on a
knoll just across the creek from the present Konle
One night in the spring of 1856, this cabin was burned
to the ground. This, while attributed to a defective
stove, was doubtless due to incendiarism, as many of the
residents wanted a new school house biiilt and no agree-
ment could be reached. The burning of the old neces-
sitated the building of a new one. On September 29,
1856, a meeting was held and it was voted to rebuild the
school house on the same site. It was voted to erect a
frame building 18x20 feet and 9 feet high, and a tax of
$250 was levied at once. The present school house was
the result. . While this building was in the process of con-
struction (1857) , Miss Mary L. Thomas taught a three
month's school on the up-stairs floor of the present Konle
The log school house in District No. 3 was one of the
first four built, and stood in the ravine just east of the
present residence of Martin Hobbs. Almira Comstock
was the first teacher, teaching a three months' term in the
summer of 1850, the report of which is elsewhere found.
The schoolhouse being too small a new one was erected
on the site of the present Town Hall.
This log school house was replaced in 1858 by the build-
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 65
ing at present known as the Town Hall, which was built
by Josephus Chandler and others at a cost of $400. Some
of the lumber used was sawed at the Mt. Vernon Saw Mill.
The first teacher was George Chandler, the last Lucretia
The location of the school house not being satisfactory,
it was voted Oct. 17, 1868, ** That, the school site be moved
to the southeast corner of K. Johnson's land, sec. 16," and,
on Nov. 16, 1868, at a special meeting, it was voted to
raise $400.00 for the building of a new stone school house.
This school house now known as the " Hanna" School
House was built the next summer by John Rea and the
patrons of the district. In the meantime the old School
house, (the Town Hall), was sold to the town for $300.00.
Mr. Ole Kolve taught the first term in the new building
in the fall of 1869.
On the completion of this building the residents of the
district realized that they had the best school house in the
town and they accordingly showed their pride and jealousy
by voting that the house should be used for no other than
school purposes, and that non-resident pupils be not ad-
mitted to it. In the light of this action it is interesting to
reflect that the building has since been thrown open for
almost every conceivable use. Much of the most stirring
part of the town's history has been enacted within its walls,
for besides serving as an ordinary school house, it has wit-
nessed religious services, spelling schools, singing schools,
debates and caucuses, and has been the rendezvous of many
organizations, among them the Primrose Farmers Club,
the Anti Horse-thief Association and the Primrose
Farmer's Cornet Band.
The first school house in District No. 4, was a log cabin,
built in 1849, and stood a few rods back of the present
building known as the Bower's School House. Gunnel
Jackson was the first teacher, Julia Barron the second.
This cabin was also used for religious services throughout
66 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
the early years of the town's history by the Methodist and
Hauge societies, and many of the first Scandinavians to
die were buried near by. An interesting occurrence was
the marriage in this building of Rev. P. H. Rasmussen of
Lisbon, III., and Miss Ragnhild Holland by EUing Eielson,
in the spring of 1855. The present school house was built
The first school in District No. 5, was taught by Miss
Fairbanks at her father's cabin, which stood a short
distance below the site of the Lutheran church which was
destroyed by fire in 1873. The first school house- was built
in what is now the dooryard of Mr. K. B. Skuldt's resi-
dence. Miss Margaret Svensrud of Blue Mounds, now
Mrs. George Paulsen, of Moscow, Wisconsin, was the first
to teach within it. In 1873, was built the present school
house. Miss Tilda Malone of Springdale, in later years,
taught in the above district almost continuously for thir-
The stone school in District No. 7, was the first in the
district and the first stone school house in the town. It
wasbuilt in 1854 by the Norwegians of the southern part of
the town to be used for school and religious purposes. In
later years it was popularly known as *'The Brodahl
Church," and many marriages and baptisms have been
celebrated within it.
The last of the early school houses built was the log
school house in what is now District No. 6. This was
built in 1863 and did service for twenty-five years. In 1885
the present school house was built. Eliza Milam was the
first teacher in the old and Libbie O'Connor the first in
the new school house.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 67
CHURCHES AND RELIGION — AN EARLY BAPTISM — ELLING
EIELSON — A METHODIST CHURCH.
The pioneers of Primrose were a devout, God-fearing
class and leavened their hardships with the consolations
of religion. It was not long after the settlement that re-
ligious activity was manifested. The first service was
held at the house of Robert Spears and was conducted by
Rae Watcher, a Methodist exhorter, who lived on Green's
Prairie, Wisconsin. Services were afferward held at the
houses of the other settlers, Mr. Watcher making regular
trips, on foot, from his home, stopping overnight with Mr.
and Mrs. Spears.
About the time of the building of the new school house,
1847, a new incentive was given to religion in the person
of D. W. Edwards, a young revivalist of the Free Will
Baptist church, who made his appearance in the settle-
ment. So eloquent was he that on one memorable Sab-
bath afternoon he led nearly the whole population of the
town, from the new school house in which the service was
held, to a pool in the small creek ffowing near by, and Rev.
J. E. Davis immersed a goodly number, Mr. Edwards
not being yet ordained. Among those immersed were:
W. W. Patchin, David Spears, Abigail Spears, Eliphalet
Thomas, Franklin Thomas, and Mary, Caroline and Ma-
tilda Thomas. Shortly afterward Elhanon La FoUette
organized the first singing school in the town, drilling the
young people in hymn singing, '' and then," one of the
girls of that day now writes, ** we all seemed to live like
brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, for nearly all the
young people were converted and the elders renewed their
diligence in serving the Lord." Among other early
68 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
preachers of the day, among the Americans, may be men-
tioned William G. Dudley, Baptist; Elder Jarius Eaton
Davis, of Belleville, and David Day, who lived on the
L. Rue farm, and preached the peculiar doctrines of
Outside of the Norwegians, there have been no regular
church organizations in Primrose.
In 1850 Elling Eielson appeared among the Norwegian
settlers of Primrose and preached his first sermon to them
at the home of Nils Olson. A congregation was soon
organized, the first in the town, known as the Primrose
Norse Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, with Eielson
as its pastor. Among the first members of this congre-
gation were Gunof Tollefson, Ole ToUefson, Halvor
Erickson, Anon Gjorgenson, Torje Matson, Salve Jorg-
enson, Ole Danielson, Nils Olson, Thomas Pederson,
Knud Bowerson. The organization joined the Norse
Evangelical Lutheran Church of North America. Serv-
ices were held in private houses, confirmations celebrated
in the woods with logs rolled up for seats. In 1856 the
first church in the towp was built by this congregation on
section 21. Five hundred dollars were subscribed for the
erection of this little structure, the members minimizing
expenses by turning out and hewing all the heavy timbers
from the woods near by. Ole Netland and Thomas New-
ton were the architects.
Immediately on its completion this church was honored
by having the annual convention (Aarsmodet) of the
church assembled within its walls, June 1, 1856. Dele-
gates came from all surrounding states, boarding with the
members of the congregation. The church being utterly
too small to hold the great crowd that gathered, the
business and discussions were carried on in the shade of
the grove. This was a momentous meeting to the
Lutheran church of the United States, and changed the
course of its whole subsequent growth. Previous to this
STORY OF PRIMROSE 69
meeting, Eielson and the Rev. P. A. Rasmussen, of Lis-
bon, 111., had become involved in bitter disputes about
doctrinal points and religious practices. All eyes turned
anxiously to this meeting in the hope that reconciliation
would follow. Such, however, was not to be the case.
Violent discussions followed on predestination and other
points and resulted in Rev. Mr. Rasmussen leading off
one party, producing a schism never fully healed.
Elling Eielson was succeeded as pastor by Rev. Arne
Boyum. Then for a short time Rev. L. Johnson and M.
Samson served. In 1864, Rev. Ole E. Torgerson took
charge, followed by Rev. P. O. Solberg, in 1866. In 1882,
K. Hagaseth, the present pastor, was called.
In 1894 this first Primrose church, in which so many of
the earliest marriages and baptisms in the town's history
had been celebrated, was torn down and a new commodi-
ous building was erected by Kleven Bros., a few rods
south, at a total cost of $2,500.
The life of Elling Eielson, the first pastor of the church,
reads like a romance and a short sketch will surely be of
Elling Eielson was born in Vos Ber-
gen Stift, Norway, September 19, 1804.
His father was a school teacher. At the
time of Elling s birth, the spirit of the
French rationalism of Voltaire and
Rousseau had swept over Norway,
P!^ comingby way of Germany and through
Copenhagen, at which latter place all
Elling Eielson. the thclogical studeuts of Norway were
then educated. Religion had died away to such an extent
in Norway that we read that Christmas day would be
given up to discussions from the pulpit of such material
questions as the proper methods of agriculture. When
Hans Nielson Hauge came forward with his wonder-
ful zeal and eloquence to win the people back to
70 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
the true religious spirit, the father of our subject
was one of the first to welcome the revival. He in-
stilled the principles of piety in his little son and
the lessons were not lost. Young Elling early determined
to be a preacher, and, taking up the work of Hauge, he
wandered over Norway, Sweden and Denmark, as an
evangelist. In 1839 he came to America, and the next
year preached his first sermon in this country in the then
little frontier town of Chicago, the services being held in
a little log house owned by an Englishwoman. In the
autum of 1842, he went to New York City to obtain a sup-
ply of books for the scattered Norwegian settlements of
Wisconsin, and came back on foot and alone in the midst
of the winter, suffering almost unparalled privations. He
reached Milwaukee on New Yearns day, 1843. On July 3.
of the same year he was married to Miss Sigri Nielson, a
daughter of Hermond Nielson of North Cape, and on Oct.
3, was ordained clergyman for America at Duncan's Grove,
Illinois, twenty miles north of Chicago. Here he built a
small house, the attic of which served as his chapel. In
1844, the first Norwegian Lutheran church in America, a
small log structure, was built in Pleasant Springs, Dane
county, and here Eielson occasionally preached. Eielson's
strength lay in his powers as an evangelist and as such he
regularly visited the Norwegian settlements of Wisconsin
and neighboring states. While on these expeditions he
carried an axe, a rubber coat, a coffee kettle and a com-
pass and camped out wherever night overtook him. He
became a friend of the Indians, and, while wandering
through Missouri, he conceived the idea of living with
them, that he might learn their language and serve as an
evangelist among them. Robust though he was, he could
not, however, endure what the Indians could and he was
forced to give up the undertaking. Eielson did not con-
fine himself very closely to established orthodoxy and
hence became involved in much trouble with Rev. J. W.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 71
Dietrichson, of Koshkonong, who traveled about doing
over the ceremonies of baptism, confirmation and mar-
riage that Eielson had performed.
In 1865-6 the pioneers of Primrose built their first
church and Eielson became its pastor. In 1859 he made a
journey to Texas and labored hard to eradicate the French
philosophy of infidelity that had taken root among the
Norwegians settled there. Two years later he resolved to
visit his native land again, but the enmity he had aroused
gave him no rest, for he was followed even there by the
Revs. Dietrichson and Stub, who stumped Norway and
endeavored to undo his good work. He remained abroad
nearly two years. In 1873 he made Chicago his home,
his previous home being at Jefferson Prairie, near Clinton,
Wis. In 1881 he made a visit to Primrose, and while
there he fell dangerously sick. He died at Chicago Jan.
10, 1883, and his remains were laid at rest in Graceland
cemetery. Eielson was an extensive land owner in Prim-
rose, owning the present M. P. Myrland farm and Mrs.
A. Langelie*s, in section 28, and that of Jacob Volkevar in
The second or third religious organization in Primrose
was effected in 1854, by Rev. Adolph C. Preus, whom his
enemies ungenerously loved to dub**AlleChristen's Plage.*'
A large stone school house, later called the " Brodahl
Church," was built in this year, that religious services
might be carried on within it. A burial ground was also
established near by. Over twenty famlies united, the or-
ganization joining the Norse Lutheran Synod. Mr. Preus
was succeded by P. M. Brodahl.
During this time, however, that part of the church that
had seceded with Rasmussen in 1856, had remained out-
side of either organization. Mr. Rasmussen was retained
as minister and services were held chiefly in the school
houses of Districts No. 5 and 7. An amusing feature of
the time was the frequent holding of services by Rev.
72 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
Messrs. Rasmussen and Brodahl on the same Sabbath at
the stone school house of District No. 7, one party waiting
outside until the other had left. Mr. Rasmussen was suc-
ceeded by John Fjeld. In 1864, these congregations united,
Mr. Brodahl retiring and Mr. Fjeld assuming charge of
In 1866 a church was built on section 28 at a cost of over
$2,000. One night in the autumn of 1873, this church was
burned to the ground. The next year another was built
eighty rods east at about the same cost, A Longelie being
the architect. The windows used in this church were do-
nated by the Lisbon, 111., congregation, having served in
the first church built there.
In 1868, however, the church became again divided,
this time on the slavery question. A secession followed
in Primrose and resulted in the formation of the Primrose
Lutheran Conference Congregation; this was organized
the next year by Rev. C. L.Clausen; among the families
joining being those of T. Thorstensen, Anon Gullickson,
B. O. Skuldt, H. O. Skuldt and Mons Ness. Services
were held in private houses and school houses, chiefly in
the school house of District No. 5 until January 1, 1891,
when the congregation again joined the Synod from which
it had seceded. Rev. Mr. Clausen was succeeded by Prof.
A. Wenaas, he by Rev. M. F. Gjertsen; who served for
many years. Revs. F. Dahl, P. Reimestad and O. Paul-
sen were the last pastors. Rev. Mr. Fjeld retired from
service in 1883, and was followed by O. Isberg who served
until 1888. Rev. H. Voldal, the present pastor, took
charge in 1889.
The earliest religious instructers for the young, among
the Norwegians were Ole Stoutland and Peter Havreberg.
A METHODIST CHURCH.
The Primrose Norse Methodist church is of unusual
interest from the fact that its organizers and early minis-
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 73
ters were the pioneer organizers of the Norse-Danish
Methodist church in North America, and men who have
risen to the highest distinction in their church. It was
organized by Rev. Chr. B. Willerup, a Dane, the second
Scandinavian Methodist minister in America, who three
years earlier had organized the first Scandinavian Meth-
odist church in America, at Cambridge, Wis. Rev. L.
Peterson assisted in the organization and was made the
first pastor. The congregation was small and services
were held in private houses and the school house of dis-
trict No. 4. The church was included in the Cambridge
In 1858. Rev. A. Haagensen, now of Chicago, took charge.
Rev. Mr. Haagensen was the first local Norse Methodist
preacher in America, and a celebrated organizer. J. H.
Johnson succeeded him in 1862. but almost immediately
joined the Fifteenth Wisconsin, as chaplain. C. P. Agre-
lius. who took charge in 1863, was another remarkable
man. He was a Swedish minister of the Lutheran church
but became converted to Methodism and traveled about
the west preaching to the Scandinavians his new doctrines.
He preached at Cambridge before Willerup made his ap-
pearance, being thus the first of his church in the west.
When the first Norse-Danish Methodist church was built
at St. Paul, in 1854, Agrelius was made its pastor. He
remained in Primrose four years, living on the present
Hoffman farm. In 1867, P. Jensen took charge, and in
this year a small log church was erected on section 26 at
a cost of $100. The building still stands. Later minis-
ters were Revs. C. F. Eltzholtz, R. Olsen and O. J. San-
acker. No regular service has been held during the last
dozen years, as most of the families of the congregation
have moved westward, that of S. EUefs being the only one
This Methodist congregation established a burying
ground behind the old log school house of District No. 4,
74 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
and many of the earliest Norwegians to die are buried
there, among them Colburn Colby and Mrs. Christian
Hendrickson, who died of cholera in 1854. Here also is
buried Rev. Samuel Anderson, a' man celebrated in the
history of the Norse-Danish Methodist church, who died
in Primrose in 1860. Rev. Mr. Anderson organized a
Methodist church at Racine, Wis., in 1853, and in 1854
built the first Norse-Methodist church in St. Paul, having
gathered the funds in the east. In this cemetery also
sleeps pioneer K. Moland.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 75
PRIMROSE DURING THE WAR — THE WANDERING MAN — TOWN
MEETINGS — ROSTER OF TROOPS.
Scarce a week had elapsed after Sumpter's flag was fired
upon before Primrose boys were to the front in response
to President Lincoln's first call for troops.
The first man to enlist from Primrose for the suppres-
sion of the rebellion was James H. Smith, who entered
the Second Wisconsin Infantry, April 24, 1861. Two days
later Lawrence Post, of Perry, then a farm hand employed
by Hall C. Chandler, joined the Third Wisconsin, and
Charles Crown the Fifth. One of the first to volunteer
was William E. Moon, listed as *'The Wandering Man."
Mr. Moon had just opened the school in District No. 1
when President Lincoln issued his first call for volunteers.
He made an inspiring speech to his pupils, firing them
with patriotic fervor and informing them of his purpose
to enlist. It was a pathetic leave taking. Mr. Moon also
remained in correspondence with his pupils until he was
killed, and the news of his death affected them greatly.
Many war meetings were held at the present Town Hall
and other places, and enlistment went on rapidly. Among
the speakers who regularly appeared at these meetings to
rouse the people were Gen. George E. Bryant, Hon. John
A. Johnson and Hon. Willet S. Main, of Madison, and
Hon* Russel Crocker of Montrose. The flag, the fife and
drum were conspicuous at these meetings, and a woman of
the time says: "We women and children also turned out
and there were many pathetic incidents. Often in one
corner of the room would be found a group making merry
and singing patriotic songs, while in another corner would
76 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
sit some family who had lost some one dear to them,
weeping, and reproaching the others for their light-heart -
Some of the troops enlisted under local officers at the
Hauge church. During the early fall of 1862, eleven men
of Company K, Twenty-eighth Wisconsin, with other re-
cruits from Perry and York, spent three weeks in hard
drilling on W. C. B. Weltzin's meadow, before going to
the front, boarding with Mr. Weltzin and sleeping in a barn.
Mr. Syver Holland acted as drill-master. The Primrose
recruits were N. N. Byrge; K. Aslakson; Thomas Chant-
land; T. O. Gordon; Erick Colby; Anuh Hansen; William
Jacobson; Sjur Knutson; S. Oleson; H. S. Holland; N. O.
In the gallant Fifteenth Wisconsin, Primrose was espe-
cially well represented.
A celebrated bounty jumper who gave the United States
officers much trouble was Robert D. Ranson; time and
time again did he evade them but he was finally taken to
the South and sentenced to death, but escaped the last
moment on a technicality in spelling his name.
Toward the close of the war as the demand for troops
increased, numerous special town meetings were held to
raise bounty money, that the town's quota might be filled.
Much money was raised by private subscription. The
total amount paid by the town was $12,837.61. The first
of these special meetings, as recorded, was held January
25, 1864, and $2000 were voted, the town supervisors being
instructed to obtain volunteers as cheap as possible, and
to turn the balance into the town treasury. Of the ninety
votes cast, seventy were for such a measure, and twenty
against, "it being noticeable'* says one *'that those in no
danger of being drafted, such as the old or crippled almost
invariably opposed the raising of bounty money at these
meetings.'* March 16, 1864, the second meeting was held
at the Town Hall and $1,200 payable in town orders at
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 77
seven per cent interest were voted. March 30, 1864. $1,200
more was voted and a resolution passed: "That if the
town could not hire volunteers, $250 should be paid to
every man drafted who owned real estate, and those not
owning real estate were to pay $15, into the town treasury
within eight days in order to get the $250.*'
Other meetings held with the amounts subscribed were:
Aug. 16, 1864, $2,000; Aug. 26, 1864, $3,000; Jan. 14, 1865,
$1000; Feb. 25, 1865, *'$200 for each volunteer or drafted
man and $400 for each man that has enlisted heretofore."
In consequence of these acts the town supervisors were
kept in Madison the greater part of the last years of the
war, obtaining troops. One of them says reminiscently:
** Men would hang around the street corners and sell
themselves to the highest bidder. And they were in big
demand. The first questions asked a new man on enter-
ing the city were: * Are you sold yet?* * What'll you
take?' One morning thirteen men came up from Spring
Green and I determined to secure the whole baker's
dozen. They had been offered $300 apiece before coming
up but I made an offer of $325 apiece to them. After
debating some time the leader announced that they would
go in together at my offer. I could not obtain the money,
however, until the banks opened at 9 o'clock, still two
hours, and I had to do a good deal of bluffing to keep
other seekers from tempting them.
** At one time our whole town board was drafted and we
were in a stew. We felt, however, that we could serve
our country better at home, at least our skins would be
safer, and we looked about for substitutes. Fortunately
we got them right in Primrose. But some mischief maker
whispered in their ears that substitutes were always
placed in the most dangerous positions in battle and
those of my colleagues backed out. I started off in high
glee with mine, but on arriving at Janesville, the muster-
ing place, he was put on the scales and, alas! was too light.
78 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
I hurried back to Madison and influential friends sought
to help me out on the only possible plea, — poor health. I
was at the time a most robust specimen of physical man-
hood and the case seemed hopeless. Returning to Janes-
ville, I was stripped and put through a round of acrobatic
performances, such as running round the room, jumping
over drygoods boxes, etc. My heart was pounding tre-
mendously, not from the exercise but from fear of having
to enlist when the physician put his ear to my breast. He
shook his head at once though and said, * No, that man
won't do. His heart is to weak,* which was indeed too
**On coming out, my colleague saw my happy face and
surmised the outcome. ' How much did you pay them?'
he asked desperately, driving his hand into his pocket.
* Not a cent ' I proudly answered. He was taken in and ex-
amined but the examination was against him. He
was told he would have to go. He had sprained
his ankle a few days before and now cried indig-
nantly: 'What! a lame man like me? why I can't walk!'
*0 that '11 be all right ' the mustering officer replied,
smiling dryly, * you wont have to walk, we'll put you in
the artillery service to guard forts, where all you have to
do is to shoot and get shot. I guess you'll do for that.'
** He managed to obtain a substitute however and es-
A complete roster of Primrose troops as gathered from
the records hereby follows:
SECOND INFANTRY — COMPANY H.
James H. Smith, April 24, 1861; July 14, 1865; sergt. major
Co. G, Sixth Regulars, Jan. 1, 1865.
Henry A. Smith, May 23, 1861; June 14, 1864.
William E. Moon, "The Wandering Man," May 23, 1861;
killed at Gainesville, Va., Aug. 28, 1862.
THIRD INFANTRY — COMPANY C.
Allen Wales, Feb. 27, 1864.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 79
Lawrence Post, April 26, 1861; July 14, 1864; captured at
Asle O. Hanum, May 2, 1861; Dec. 2, 1862.
FIFTH INFANTRY — COMPANY I.
Charles Crown, April 26, 1861; July 14. 1864.
Geo. B. Thomas, June 26, 1861; killed at Fredericksburg,
Va., May 3, 1863.
Geo. W. Chandler, July 20, 1861; Feb. 15, 1864.
Andrew C. Baerstad, June 28, 1861; killed at Fredericks-
burg, May 3, 1863.
EIGHTH INFANTRY — COMPANY E.
Harry Ash, Aug. 31, 1861; Sept. 16, 1864.
John Bell, Aug. 31, 1861; Sept. 5, 1865.
Nils Olson, Sept. 21, 1861; died, Keokuk, la., Aug. 4, 1862.
Laurene Randall, Aug. 5, 1864; died Sept. 1, 1865.
NINTH INFANTRY — COMPANY C.
Otto Wiesender, Feb. 17, 1865; Jan. 30, 1866.
FIFTEENTH INFANTRY — COMPANY B.
John Peters, Nov. 11, 1861; Dec. 20, 1864; sergt. and 2nd
lieut., Nov. 11, 1863.
Gunder Gunderson, Nov. 12, 1861; Dec. 20, 1864; sergt.
Andrew Johnson, corp., Nov. 6, 1861; wounded at Stone
River; died at New Albany, Indiana, Mar. 18, 1863.
Peter Johnson, Dec. 20, 1861; Dec. 20, 1864; wounded at
New Hope Church, Dec. 2, 1864.
Peter W. Chantland, 2nd lieut., Dec. 8, 1861; Nov. 18,
1863; sergt. April 9, 1863.
Torbjorn Erikson, Nov. 26, 1861; died Nov. 15, 1862 at
80 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
John M. Johnson, Nov. 1, 1861; Dec. 20, 1864.
Job Tjerans, Nov. 1, 1861; died at Murfreesboro, May
Ole Colby, Jan. 3, 1862; Jan. 13, 1865.
Elias Christopherson, Nov. 26, 1861; Jan. 13, 1865; wounded
Henry O. Hendrikson, Nov. 11, 1861; Jan. 13, 1865; corp.
Ole O. Nelson.
John H. Johnson, Nov. 4, 1861; Jan. 13, 1865; corp.
Nils K. Luraas, Nov. 20, 1861; Jan. 13, 1865.
Nils Erickson, Feb. 26, 1864.
Gunner Severson, Dec. 2, 1861; Dec. 16, 1862.
Ingebret Johnson, Dec. 17, 1861; died at Nashville, Tenn.,
Dec. 23, 1862.
Newton K. Andrew, Jan. 15. 1862; Feb. 10, 1865; corp.
Tollef Olson, Dec. 16, 1861; June 24, 1862.
Henry Brown, Feb. 17, 1864; recruit.
Knud K. Landgra.
Ingebret O. Bolstad, Oct. 22, 1861; Feb. 10, 1865.
Robert Watson, Feb. 18, 1864.
John H. Johnson, chaplain, Oct. 19, 1864.
SIXTEENTH INFANTRY — COMPANY B.
Edwin R. Cook, Feb. 16, 1864; July 24, 1865.
Wm. W. Bunker, Feb. 24, 1864; died at Keokuk, la. Sept.
SEVENTEENTH INFANTRY — COMPANY H.
Ira Holden. Feb. 5, 1862; April 9, 1862.
TWENTY-SEVENTH INFANTRY — COMPANY H.
John Nelson, Aug. 15, 1862; Aug. 29, 1865.
STORY OF PRIMROSE 81
TWENTY-EIGHTH INFANTRY — COMPANY K.
Knut Aslakson, Aug. 14, 1862; died April 5, 1863 at Green-
Sunder Steverson, Aug. 21, 1862; died Dane County, June
Nils O. Sjurson, Aug. 18, 1862; Aug. 23, 1865.
T. C. Chandler.
John Williamson, Aug. 14. 1862; May 28, 1863.
ToUot O. Gordon, Aug. 14, 1862; died at Helena, Ark., Feb.
N. N. Byrge, Aug. 21, 1862; Aug. 23, 1865.
Erick Colby, Aug. 21, 1862; Aug. 23. 1865.
Thomas Chantland, Aug. 15, 1862; Aug. 23, 1865; corp.
William Jacobson, Aug. 21, 1862; Aug. 19, 1865.
Anun Hansen, Aug. 21, 1862; June 10, 1865; corp.
Haldor S. Holland, Aug. 14, 1862; May 22, 1865; sergt.
Samuel Olsen, Aug. 21, 1862; Aug. 23, 1865.
THIRTY-THIRD INFANTRY — COMPANY K.
Ed. S. Ketchum, Aug. 21, 1862; Wgm, 1865; corp.
Columbus Hatch, Aug. 19, 1862; Aug. 9, 1865.
Peter Bell, Aug. 14, 1862; Aug. 9, 1865.
Lewis Jain, Aug. 14, 1862; Aug. 9, 1865; wounded, Comar-
John B. Jain, Aug, 20, 1862; Aug. 9, 1865.
John F. Cross, Aug. 15, 1862; Aug. 9, 1865; sergt.
Robert. D. Ransom, Aug. 21, 1862; deserted, Oct. 25, 1862.
THIRTY-SEVENTH INFANTRY — COMPANY C.
John J. Argue, March 30, 1864; July 10, 1865.
Thomas W. Argue, March 31. 1864; died, June 25, 1864;
82 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
FORTY-THIRD INFANTRY — COMPANY I.
Geo. Jackson, capt., Sept. 16, 1864; June 24, 1865.
Ole N. Bjorge, Sept. 3, 1864; died at Jeffersonville, Ind.,
Nov. 22, 1864.
Andrew N. Brones, Sept. 6, 1864; June 24, 1865.
Peter N. Brones, Sept. 7, 1864; June 24. 1865.
Andrew Charleson, Sept. 2, 1864; June 24, 1865, corp.
Martin Nelson, Sept. 3, 1864; June 24, 1865.
Sever Olsen, Aug. 27, 1864; June 24, 1865.
Osmund Osmundsen, Aug. 25, 1864; June 24, 1865.
Knud Sorenson, Aug. 25, 1864; June 24, 1865.
Knud ToUef, Aug. 31, 1864: June 24, 1865.
FORTY-FIFTH INFANTRY — COMPANY F.
Annun A. Jorgen, Jan. 24, 1865; July 17, 1865.
FORTY-SIXTH INFANTRY — COMPANY D.
John Paulson, Feb. 14, 1865; Oct. 14, 1865.
Christian Syverson, Feb. 14, 1865; Sept. 27, 1865.
John Charleson, Feb. 14, 1865; Sept. 27, 1865.
Anun O. Danielson, Feb. 14, 1865; Sept. 27, 1865.
Andrew E. Lewis, Feb. 14, 1865; Sept. 27, 1865.
FORTY-SEVENTH INFANTRY — COMPANY E.
G. H. Ames, Jan. 30, 1865; Sept. 4, 1865.
Ansel O. Ash, Jan. 30, 1865; May 27, 1865.
William L. Hollar. Jan. 24, 1865; July 14, 1865; musician.
George P. Ketchum, Jan. 24, 1865; died, Feb. 22, 1865, at
FIFTY-SECOND INFANTRY — COMPANY A.
George R. Baxter, Feb. 28, 1865; deserted, March 2, 1865.
STORt OF PRIMROSE. 83
MISCELLANEOUS — A BEAR HUNT — THE BELL SUIT — THE MOB-
BING OF THE BYAMS — THE BRITTS MILL.
1851. — In this year by act of th6 legislature, Messrs.
Sylvester Wheeler, Matthew Hause, Joel Britts, John L.
Sarten and Jonas Loveless were appointed commissioners
** to lay out and establish a state road beginning at the
junction of the Madison and Verona state road in the
county of Dane, thence southwest on the present road,
or as near as practicable to Wjota in the county of La
1854. — In the summer of this year Colburn Colby, who
had brought a load of emigrants from Milwaukee to Rock
Prairie, was seized with the Asiatic cholera and died. Chi
August 2, of the same year, Mrs. Christian Hendrickson
was carried away by the same disease.
1856. — In the winter of 1856 a celebrated bear hunt was
enjoyed by the citizens of Primrose and Springdale.
Early in the winter Mr. Nash, who lived on the present
Dahl farm in Springdale, noticed the tracks of a bear on
the snow in his cornfield. Thomas Bently, living on the
present Fargo farm, was the Daniel Boone of the day and
he gathered a force to hunt the animal down. Mr. Axium
Malone was the first to discover it. In riding next day
past the "Dahr* cave, in which the bear had made his den,
he suddenly came upon the beast in a thicket. His horse
made a start and stumbled over a stump, Mr. Malone
breaking three ribs and being otherwise injured by the
fall. While Mr. Malone was conveyed home the bear es-
caped his pursuers and fled into the town ot Primrose,
passing southward somewhere between the Webber spring
and Mr. Britts' house. The next day nearly seventy men
84 STORY OF PRIMI^OSE.
and boys were hot on its trail, on horseback and foot, ac-
companied by many dogs. It was finally treed in a black
oak in N. N. Byrge*s pasture and " Jim'* Dudley and Ed.
Britts came up and shot it. The animal was a black one
weighing four hundred pounds. The farmers stripped off
the skin and dividing up the flesh went home to enjoy the
steak. The stump of the tree in which the bear took ref-
uge is still to be seen on Mr. Byrge's farm.
In this year a small store was opened by Sevilian Phillips
on the site of the present Rock Hill Cheese Factory. The
building was a small poplar log structure with a four foot
counter, and was utilized as a store but a short time. Josiah
La FoUette built the first frame house in Primrose in this
1857. — In 1857, the first serious instance of corruption
in the town government was discovered. In balancing
the books of the retiring treasurer, Joseph H. Bell, it was
fdund that the expenditures of the town for the year 1856
had been $1,387.12, and the receipts $1,479.57, leaving a
balance of $92.45, of which no account was given. Suit
was immediately brought by the supervisors of the town
against the ex-treasurer and his sureties, Peter Bell and
Norman Randall. The case was first called before Justice
William Sweet, of Springdale, J. P. Mc Pherson, of Spring-
dale, appearing as attorney for the town supervisors.
From here the case was carried before Judge Luther S.
Dixon, of the circuit court of Dane county, Hon. S. U.
Pinney appearing as attorney for the defendants and J. H.
Carpenter and J. P. Mc Pherson for the plaintiffs. A flaw
having been discovered, the suit was withdrawn, March 23,
1859, and the costs of about $100.00, were assessed to the
1858. — The last town meeting in the school house of
District No. 1, was held April 6, 1858. Ten dollars was
voted for guide boards, at this meeting. It was then
voted to hold the next election **in the new meeting
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 85
house," the Hauge church. This occurred November 2,
1858, and the next town meeting was held in the ** Chan-
dler" school house, the present town hall, which had been
built the previous year.
In the summer of this year was built the Britts' Mill
(section 8), by Ed. Britts and Charles Smith. It was
built of stone, provided with ponderous wooden
wheels, and was a popular resort in its day. In
the early eiffhties the wooden wheels were replaced with
a turbine water wheel and improved machinery by C. W.
Karn. One night in September, 1887, while in possession
of Nick. Hentgen, the mill was burnt to the ground,
doubtless by incendiarism. The walls still stand but no
attempt has been made to rebuild it.
1859. — In this year occurred the mobbing of the Byam
brothers of Mt. Vernon, by the farmers of Primrose, who
now rallied for the last time in response to the old " Club
Law." Dr. Philander Byam and his two brothers had by
means of selling patent rights on churns and buggy
springs, succeeded in defrauding many of the surrounding
farmers of their lands. Public feeling against them ran
so high that at last on the night of October 24, 1859, a
band of about seventy of the farmers of Primrose rallied
and choosing R. B. Chandler leader, marched to the village
of Mt. Vernon, determined to teach the offenders a lesson.
The house of Dr. Byam stood south of the mill just inside
the Primrose line, and the family had retired when the
farmers arrived. They began calling for the doctor, who
sent his wife out to say that he was not at home. The
farmers, however, knew that he was and not to be ''bluffed,"
they immediately began tearing down the house with axes
and crowbars. Dr. Byam then opened an upstairs window
and with an oath yelled out: "If it weren't for the infant
in the cradle here, a half-dozen of you would be lying
dead out there." " Mr. Byam will you please come down
and go with us over to the mill?'* asked Mr. Chandler,
86 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
"we're going to hold a meeting there." This he at first
refused to do, but on the pledge that no harm would be
done him, finally yielded. At the mill a sort of a trial was
held, and several speeches were made. He was of course
found guilty of many misdemeanors and " Col." Kelly, of
Mt. Vernon, in concluding the speech-making finished
thus: " Now, Mr. Byam, and that means every Byam in
Mt. Vernon, one of two things you can do, — leave Mt. Ver-
non, every soul of you, inside of twenty-four hours, or
stay and be hanged." One of the brothers, who lived with
an old crony in a cabin near the " Big Rock," was given a
coating of tar and feathers. The next morning they
hired teams and moved at once to Madison. One of them
had the temerity to return for a load of hay on the Bell
farm, (John Tascher's), but when he had reached the top
of the " Mill" hill with it, someone slipped up behind and
wantonly set fire to it, causing the team to run away and
furnishing an exciting spectacle for the village. A suit
for $10,000 danrages, was immediately brought in the cir-
cuit court against R. B. Chandler, Hall C. Chandler, J. T.
Chandler, H. M. LaFollette, William LaFollette, Joseph
A. Bell, Peter Bell, Joseph A. Britts, William W. Miner,
David Ash, George H. Orr, Dean H. Eastman and Elipha-
let Thomas. J. C. Hopkins appeared as attorney for the
plaintiffs, and Johnson, Rollins, Smith, Keyes and Gay for
the defendants. Over fifty witnesses were subpoenaed,
practically all the residents in the vicinity, and on April
19, 1860, a judgment of $330.00, was given the plaintiffs, the
costs amounting to $78.26. Messrs. Dean Eastman and
Eliphalet Thomas, were exempted by the jury from any
part of the judgment. As other suits were threatened, Mr.
Harvey M. La FoUette, to avoid losing all his property
sold his farm and moved back to Indiana, but with gener-
ous loyalty to his friends sent back his share of the assess-
ments on the suits following. Further suits were insti-
tuted by the Byams in the federal court at Madison, but
these resulted in a victory for the farmers.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 87
1860. — At the- national election, the Lincoln electors
received one hundred and twenty votes, the Douglas elec-
1864.— The Lincoln electors received one hundred and
fifteen votes, Mc Clellan, twenty.
1868. — Grant electors received one hundred and forty-
nine votes, Seymour, thirty-two. G. Tollefson elected
member of Assembly.
1871. — In June 1871, a dozen property holders of the
town petitioned for a special town meeting, to vote on the
question of granting aid to the Sugar River Railroad, a
project then under consideration. The railroad was to
run within one-half mile of Paoli and Belleville in the
town of Montrose, with a station at each place. The
meeting was held July 1, and resulted in two votes for the
railroad, and eighty-seven against.
1872. — W. C. B. Weltzin elected clerk of Dane county.
1879. — Mrs. Anna Hanna opened a store on Section 16,
in this year, which was maintained for a number of
1881.— March 13, 1881, Mr. Christian Hendrickson, the
first Scandinavian settler in Primrose, commited suicide
by hanging in his barn. The news was a great shock to
the community as Mr. Hendrickson was a well to do and
highly respected citizen. For the grateful services which
he often rendered his countrymen who followed him, he
deserves high praise. Further notices of him in this vol-
ume reveals the high trust in which he was held.
1882. — The Peerless Cheese Factory built.
1884.— Standard, **Domholt" and Rock Hill cheese fac-
1888.— "Colby" Cheese Factory built.
1893. — On Sept. 5, 1893, an old settlers' picnic was held
at Primrose church. A large crowd was present, many
from adjoining towns. Among the speakers of the day
were Messrs. John A. Johnson, of Madison; Lawrence
OO STORY OF PRIMROSE.
Post, of Perry; Hollis Crocker, of Montrose; Gunof Tol-
lefson.of Primrose; Rev.O. Paulson, of t'a Fayette county;
P. O. Stromme, of Mt. Horeb; and Rev. H. Voldal. Mrs.
Turner, of Belleville, one of the first white women in
Dane county, was an interesting visitor.
1894.^ Primrose Norse Evangelical Lutheran Church
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 89
MISCELLANEOUS — ORGANIZATIONS — THE GREAT TORNADO —
CRIMES — THE CHRISTEN MURDER.
THE PRIMROSE FARMERS* CLUB — FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY.
The first organization in Primrose of any importance,
with the exception of the church organizations, was the
Primrose Farmers' Club, an outgrowth of the popular
Granger movement of the early seventies. The club was
organized at the school house in District No. 1, May 10,
1873. The object of the organization was for mutual im-
provement in the discussion of agricultural methods and
for advantageous co-operation in the purchase of goods.
The first officers of the club were: Ole Barton, president;
O. G. Stamn and Charles Crown, vice-presidents; N. N.
Byrge, secretary; P. O. Baker, treasurer. Five directors,
O. G. Stamn, Ole Barton, Eli Pederson, P. O. Baker and
T. Thorstenson, were also elected. The club consisted of
about one hundred members, and regular meetings were
held at various places until 1877. The most important re-
sult of the organization was the formation by its members
of the Primrose Fire Insurance Company, April 25, 1874,
for mutual protection against losses by fire. This was the
pioneer company of its kind in its locality. The original
subscribers of this company were: Ole Barton, N. Swa-
ger, A. S. Holland, Eli Peterson. O. K. Nessa, J. G. Hanna,
Lars. L. Kolve, P. O. Baker, George Thompson, Thomas
Zimmerman, Syver Neseim, Hans Anderson, O. G. Stamn,
G. Gullickson, L. L. Skaar, A. Anderson, O. P. Myrland,
P, E. Call, G. O. Stamn, P. Lensworth, T. Thorstenson,
S. A. Wallen, K. O. Gordon, O. E. Stamn, L. M. Olson, J.
Anderson, O. Slaaten, C. Hendrickson.
A capital stock of $25,000, was subscribed.
90 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
The company has been very fortunate, having suffered
but four serious losses since its organization, $500, for the
burning of Andrew Anderson's house; $600, for the burn-
ing of Eli Pederson's granary in 1891, and $800, for the
burning of Ole Hustad's house in 1893. On November 28,
1894, Bower Bowerson's house was destroyed, making
the fourth loss.
THE PRIMROSE UNION CHEESE FACTORY ASSOCIATION.
The formation of this company was important as it took
the first step in the building of cheese factories in the
town. The company was organized Feb. 6, 1878, and a
factor]^ for the manufacture of limburger cheese was
built near Mr. Tascher's home. The following were the
original members of the association: John Tascher, M.
Schlimgen, M. F. Van Norman, M. C. Webber, Ole Bar-
ton, D. H. Eastman, H. Johnson and C. J. Weltzin.
PRIMROSE ANTI-HORSE-THIEF ASSOCIATION.
This association was organized January 24, 1891, for the
protection of its members against horse-thieves, who had
alarmed and irritated the people of the town for a few
years. Several meetings were held and twenty-one arti-
cles of protection were drawn up and signed. The active
members of the association consist of a president, two
vice-presidents, a secretary and a treasurer. Ten riders
are elected to assist the proper authorities in case of theft.
No horse stealing, however, has been committed since the
association was formed. The following were the original
members: C. Danielson, (president), N. N. Byrge, O. G.
Stamn, H. H.Anderson, G. G. Stamn, John Wallen, H.O.
PRIMROSE farmers' CORNET BAND.
This band was organized August 8. 1890, with the follow-
ing members: O. E. Stamn, J. H. Domholt, O. O. Holman,
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 91
C. O. Weltzin, S. H. Skuldt, H. N. Byrge, O. Anderson,
O. L. Kleppe, O. E. Slaaten, O. G. Lee, G. G. Stamn, O.
J. Slaaten, M. O. Slaaten, G. W. Weltzin,
THE CHRISTEN MURDER.
The worst crime that ever stained the soil of Primrose
was the murder of Cheesemaker William Christen, by
John Kuehni, in December, 1888. In its sickening and
cold-blooded brutality this crime remains almost un-
paralled. It was committed on the night of December 12,
1888, at the Holland Cheese Factory in the north-east cor-
ner of Section 16, where Christen, an inoffensive bachelor
of thirty, was employed as cheesemaker. John Kuehni,
the murderer, was a young desperado of twenty-five who
had been but fourteen months in this country, coming from
Switzerland, in which country he had previously been im-
prisoned for petty crimes. Christen was murdered for
his money, he having in his posession at the time between
three and four hundred dollars of wages for his summer's
work. It was Kuehni's plan to secure this money, return
to Switzerland and spend the remainder of his life among
his native mountains. The story of the discovery of the
crime, its revolting nature, and the miscarriage of Kuehni's
plans are essentially as follows:
On the afternoon of December 21, 1888, the brothers
George and William Rea, of Mt. Vernon, were fishing in
the little brook that flows just below the Holland Cheese
Factory. About ninety rods east of the factory, in a pool
of the bright clear water, they discovered an old grain
sack weighted to the bottom with something inside.
** Looks like there might be a jug in it," said one, ** let's
pull it out." They pulled it out with a fish pole, cut it
open, and shook out a stone, a pair of wooden shoes, a
liver and intestines, and to their horror and amazement, — a
human head. N. N. Byrge was sent for and identified the
head at once as that of William Christen. Sheriff Estes
92 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
was immediately informed and the next morning Justice
Ole Barton empanelled a coroner's jury, John Tascher, G.
Anonson, M. Hobbs, Eli Pederson, P. O. Baker and K. P.
Myrland, which convened in the said factory and fixed the
guilt of murder at once on Kuehni. In the meantime
Kuehni had a week's start. He was traced to Monroe,
Wisconsin, thence to Philadelphia, where he had taken
passage on the American Line steamer, Lord Gough,
bound for Basle, Switzerland. He was intercepted, how-
ever, by a cablegram, and was arrested by a London de-
tective immediately on his landing in England, December
29. Sheriff Estes and Peter Sangesend, crossed the water
in pursuit, and on Feburary 22, had him safely lodged in
Dane county jail.
From circumstantial evidence and the murderer's own
testimony, it was gathered that he had killed Christen in
in his bed by striking him on the head with a stick of
wood. Kuehni was living with Christen at the time, the
two being boon companions who often drank and hunted
After the murder, Kuehni hung cheese cloth over the
windows of the factory, and taking the body into the cel-
lar, cut it up with an axe. A part of the body he burned
on the cellar floor, a part was buried in a neighboring
grove, and the head, liver and intestines thrown into the
The murderer at first maintained his innocence and man-
ifested a stolid indifference, but later confessed his guilt
and was sent to Waupun for life.
KILLING OF HYDE.
On the night of July 4, 1884, Frank Hyde, of New
Glarus was killed in a drunken street fight in that village,
by William Wagner, a farm hand in the employ of Charles
Dixon, of Primrose. Wagner pounded his victim to death
with brass knuckles. After the killing he coolly returned
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 93
to his work, making no attempt at escape. He was
i arrested the next day, tried at Monroe, Wisconsin, and
sentenced to twenty years in the penitentiary for man-
In the latter part of the eighties a series of the most
annoying of petty crimes to the farmers of Primrose was
committed — horse-stealing. The first one to suffer was
George Bowers, who in 1887 had a valuable mare stolen.
i In the same year, Nels Hustad lost one, and the year fol-
I lowing, Ole L. Myrland was the victim, losing a good horse.
[ The last victim was Syver Skuldt, who one night in the
summer of 1890, lost an excellent animal. No clue was
found leading to a punishment of these crimes until some
time after the last was conimited, when a detective found
I the rogue in C. J. Agrelius, a former harnessmaker of Mt.
Vernon, who had spirited these horses away to his home
I in north-western Illinois. Agrelius was taken to Madison
I for trial, confessed to all the thefts, and was sent to Wiu-
pun for a few years.
THE GREAT TORNADO OF 1878.
I The great tornado that swept through the town of Prim-
rose on the afternoon of May 23, 1878, was the most apall-
ing calamity that has ever fallen upon its inhabitants. No
one save those who witnessed and survived it can compre-
hend its grandeur and horror. The mightiest oaks of the
forest were torn up by the roots, houses were seen tossed
to the clouds, and then sown in countless fragments over
the surrounding country, while in its midst was a night of
inky blackness, in which lightning, rain and immense fall-
ing hailstones added to the horror of the deafening crash,
and the savage fury of the wind. It struck the town about
four o'clock in the afternoon of a pleasant day, in which
the unsuspecting farmers were all about their wonted
labors in the fields. Its duration was but a few moments,
yet in that time, three lives were lost in Primrose, many
94 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
persons were injured, and an immense amount of property
destroyed. Fortunately the width of the storm was but a
few rods. An excellent account of its passage and its de-
structive nature is given in Mr. Butterfield's History of
Dane county (1880) , from which we include the following,
descriptive of its passage through Primrose:
"The storm passed into the town of Primrose on both
sides of the line separating sections 7 and 18.. In
the south-west corner of Section 18, the house and out-
buildings of M. Oberemt, were swept away. The house
was torn to pieces and scattered to the south and south-
west. Mr. Oberemt and seven children were in the house
at the time, and were thrown into the yard with the flying
fragments ot the house. One boy, fifteen years of age, was
carried fifteen rods nearly south into a ravine. Although
the ground was so thickly strewn with the ruins as to be
literally covered for one hundred yards to the south and
southeast, no one of these eight persons was seriously in-
jured. The farm wagon, before the storm, stood six rods
east of the house, after the storm, it was in ruins, twelve
rods west of the house. Fifty rods south of Mr. Oberemt's,
where a granary was being built, a wagon loaded with
lumber, was broken to pieces, one wheel was carried one-
fourth of a mile directly east, and another, one and a
fourth miles in the same direction; Nearly half a mile
east of Mr. Oberemts, the house»and out-buildings of John
Osmonson were destroyed. Mr. Osmorison seeing that a
severe storm was approaching, left the field where he was
at work, that he might not get wet. Becoming somewhat
alarmed at the roaring, the continous lightning and thun-
der, and the very threatning aspect of the sky, he waited
only long enough to unharness one horse, hurried into the
house and told his wife they must hasten to the cellar. A
boy of fourteen and a girl of eight got into the cellar, and
Mrs. Osmonson, with an infant three months old, was
partly down when the house was taken bodily. At this
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 95
time, Mr. Osmonson, with a child in each hand, aged re-
spectively four and six, stood at the cellar door waiting
for the mother and babe to get fully down. Besides these,
there was in the house a girl twelve years old. This girl
was found thirty yards distant north of east, senseless,
nearly buried in mud, with two severe scalp wounds and
her right arm broken three times between the shoulder
and elbow. About four rods north of the house was the
border of a large field of second growth oak and poplar
timber from twenty to forty feet in height. The house
was carried over the timber, with Mr. Osmonson and the
two children whom he still held firmly in his grasp. While
in the air over this timber, the house went to pieces, the
larger portion of it falling sixteen rods directly north of
its starting point. One portion of the roof was twenty-
five rods distant in a direction north, thirty degrees west,
and another portion, sixty rods distant north, twenty-five
degrees east. The stove was mainjy found seven rods
directly north of the principal ruins of the house, some
parts, however, were carried several rods farther in the
*'Mr. Osmonson and the two children fell about twenty
feet north of the main ruins of the house. Mr. Osmonson
had his face scratched and one rib broken in falling
through the tops of a tree. The children were entirely
unhurt, the youngest one did not even cry. Large hail
was falling at the time and the children were laid under
the ruins of the house, while the father hastened to find
the other members of the family. The children in the
cellar were not hurt, Mrs. Osmonson was injured in the
back, probably by something striking her as the house
moved off. The stable in which the horses had been put,
was eight rods south-west of the house. One of the horses
was blown into the cellar, and lay there upon his back
when found, while the other was in the standing timber,
twenty-two rods distant, with his hind feet resting upon
96 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
the ground while his fore feet were hanging upon a bent
over sapling. The position of the horse and the thick
growth of the timber, rendered it impossible for him to
get there only by being carried above the tops of the trees
and dropped down. He was uninjured. An iron pump,
with forty-six feet of zinc pipe, was taken from a well and
carried north-west a distance of fifteen rods. A lumber
wagon was broken entirely to pieces. One wheel and an axle
were carried north sixty-five degrees, east seventy-five
rods, while the large portion of the ren^ainder went north-
east sixteen rods. One wheel was entirely broken to
pieces, and the tire left hanging on a tree ten feet from
the ground. This tire, one-half inch thick and one and
one half inches wide and very slightly worn was broken
twice in two and bent in such a manner as to show that it
had been acted upon by a force of great power.
*' Eighty rods north-east of Osmonson's house, stood a
house belonging to Mrs. Ketchum. This was on the south
side of a hill. It was taken bodily from the foundation,
up the hill, north, and left in a little niche in the woods
north-west from its starting point fifteen rods. The family
escaped by going to the cellar.
*' The storm bent to the north at this point. Its northern
border struck the house of G. Gullikson, situated at the
center of Section 9. This house was partially protected
by standing timber, and was only slightly injured. A shed,
rather slightly built, was torn away and carried directly
west. Fifty rods south of the center of the west line of
Section 10, the house of N. Byrge was totally destroyed.
Byrge and his son were instantly killed. Their bodies
when found lay in a ravine about fifteen rods north-east
of the house. The stove and the larger part of the ruins
of the house were found near them. A barrel was carried
directly east half a mile. Mrs Byrge was injured to some
extent. One man escaped by jumping into the cellar.
Very nearly directly north from Byrge's and one hundred
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 97
rods distant, the barn, granary and hay stacks of Mr. Hobbs
were blown down, the debris falling directly south. Be-
tween Byrge's and Hobb's, a marsh some forty rods in
width fairly bristled with pieces of board, timber and other
debris, that had come from the house on the south and
the barn on the north.
•' Three-fourths of a mile further east, J. T. Chandler, had
upon one side of the road a house and three barns, and
upon the other side stood a house and barn belonging to R.
B. Chandler. These buildings were utterly destroyed. It
would be difficult to imagine a picture of greater deso-
lation than was to be seen here after the storm. It was
not over thirty rods from one extreme of this group of
buildings to the other. The ruins were consequently
strewn over a comparatively small space and were corre-
spondingly thick. The broken foundation walls, the debris
of the buildings, fragments of tables, bedsteads, bureaus
and chairs, shreds of bedding and clothing, hanging up-
on bushes and trees or lying upon the ground in a state
which rendered it difficult to distinguish the garment from
the mud, gave the scene an indescribably saddening air of
ruin and desolation.
"The debris of these buildings was thrown east and
north-east, one piece of timber eight inches square
and six feet long, was carried east one fourth of a mile.
The sills of one barn were twelve inches square, one of
these was broken in four pieces and the others in two.
Very few whole timbers were left. The deed of J. T.
Chandler's farm was found the next day nearly ten miles
distant, directly east. A portion of an organ from R. B.
Chandler's house, was found four and one fourth miles
directly north, while the boiler and some cooking
utensils, were carried east one mile. The family of J. T.
Chandler escaped injury by going to the cellar. W. Os-
borne and family were living in R. B. Chandler's house.
Mr. Osborne was slightly injured; Mrs. Osborne had one
98 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
leg broken twice, the knee of the other seriously injured,
and was bruised all over by the hail; a daughter was so
severely injured as not to be able to walk for three months.
Seventeen pans of milk in the cellar were not disturbed
by the storm.
• "One mile east of Mr. Chandler's, on the bank of Sugar
River, R. Shepard's granary and log house were destroyed.
The stove, a part of the furniture and some of the logs of
the house were blown into the river. A lady school tea-
cher, boarding at the house, was saved from the same fate
by a log falling on her and holding her down. Mrs.
Shepard was somewhat hurt by falling hail. This house
was on the northern border of the stream; one hundred
rods, directly south, upon the southern border, the house
of O. S. Olson was unroofed. Chandler's buildings were
in the center of the tornado's path, which there was only
eighty rods in width. It had consequently widened about
twenty rods and curved slightly to the south between
Chandler's and Shepard's. Near the center of the south-
west quarter of Section 12, a log house was blown down
and Mrs. Galena killed by falling timber. With the
exception of the destruction of timber and the blowing
down of fences, little damage was done for the next four
and one-half miles.
Mrs. G. TOLLEFSON (KOLVE).
A Representative Womar\.
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 99
Primrose is an excellent stock and grain region. Through
the northern part of the town flows the west branch of the
Sugar River and two tributaries of the same, which give
the north half an abundance of water and meadow land,
making it excellent for dairying;, now the most marked
industry of the inhabitants. The surface is undulating
and agreeably diversified with oak openings and prairie,
and in the south central part there is considerable high
The most striking natural curiosity in the town is
"Devil's Chimney,** in Section 11. This is a perpendic-
ular sandstone rock, crowned by a large mass of the same
stone and resembling very much a chimney, being fifty
feet high, twenty-five feet in circumference at the base,
and seventy-five feet in circumference at the top. Seen
from a distance it lends a most picturesque charm to the
surrounding scenery. Close at its base is a large flat rock
known as the " Devil's Washbasin,** because of a cavity in
its top which is frequently filled with rainwater. Not far
away is the "DeviVs Bootjack.'*
The rocks doubtless received their names from some
bluff pioneer explorer.
Names of visitors from all parts of the union are found
carved upon these rocks. Near the top of the chimney is
the inscription '* L. L. B. *56,** and close by *' Geo. McFad-
den, H. S. Utley, 1858.
Owing to the difficulty of the feat, many daring souls
have been tempted to climb the chimney. The story that
Joel Britts scaled it in 1850 is denied by his sons. The
first one known to have climbed the rock, for certain, was
100 STORY or PRIMROSE.
Bert Olsen, who in 1859 achieved the feat by means of a
rope. J. A. Oliver scaled it in 1873, and in,1877, J. A.
Oliver, Henry Fulton and A. Warden climbed it by means
of poles and ropes. In 1879, however, Frank Pierce per-
formed the daring feat of climbing it unaided by either.
He placed a handkerchief on a pole and returning three
years later, climbed it again in the same way and took down
the remnants of his handkerchief. The chimney has
since been scaled by Prof. A.J.Olson and many others.
Mount Julid in Section 24, is another natural curiosity
of note. This is an oblong ridge of rock 1700 feet long
200 feet high and 250 feet broad on top. It commands an
extensive view of the surrounding country. One tradition
says it took its name from that of an old woman who once
lived in a cabin near its base, while another whispers of a
There are three cemeteries in present use in the town.
In Section 28 the two Lutheran congregations have each
one, and in Section 22 is one maintained by the Baptists.
In the latter are buried. Pioneer Norman Randall, who
died December 23, 1886, aged 77 years, and two volunteers,
Laurene Randall and George P. Ketchum, both of whom
died in service in 1865. Among the pioneers buried in the
Norse Evangelical Lutheran cemetery are Kund Bowerson,
who died in 1871, aged 45 years, and Peter Myrland, who
died in 1868, aged 66 years.
The population of the town is largely Scandinavian, the
more restless and easy-going Yankee of the early day
having been crowded out. Now the Scandinavians are
being pressed out by the Swiss, whose greater industry
and lower standard of living make them the fitter to sur-
vive in the narrowing circumstances of growing com-
munities. The total population at present is 902; males,
495; females, 407; colored, 1. Of these 652 were born in
the United States; 159 in Norway; 59 in Switzerland.
There are 161 eligibles for the militia. Seven war veterans
STORY OF PRIMROSE. 101
are resident: Patrick Goggin, Company H, Eighth Wis-
consin Vol. Inf.; John Peters, Company E, Fifteenth; Nils
Hustad, Company G, Fifteenth; Ole Barton, Company D,
Twenty-third; N.^ N. Byrge, Company K, Twenty-eighth;
M. C. Webber, Company F, Forty-second; Osmund Os-
mundson, Company I, Forty-third.
The population of the town at the end of each five years
of its history has been: 1850, (including Perry), 438; 1855,
631; 1860, 889; 1865, 867; 1870, 1015; 1875, 919; 1880. 888;
1885. 864; 1890, 890; 1895, 902.
Politically, Primrose has always been strongly republican,
The town has been three times represented in the assem-
bly of the State Legislature, in 1868 by Gunof Tollefson;
1882 by Eli Pederson; 1888 by P. O. Baker.
But few of the old pioneers remain. They are fast
going and . a new generation has come upon the scene to
reap the reward of their heroic self sacrifices. All honor
to their memories. With the pioneers are also going the
old log cabins, and the writer in concluding this work
would voice the general regret of the pioneers that thought-
less and irreverent hands should so fast sweep away these
monuments to love and hardship, and so often needlessly.
They too are fast going, and in a few years the rustic ram-
bler will stumble across the green embankments of the
latest one and muse uoon its buried memories. Let the
old landmarks remain to teach their silent lessons of ven-
eration for the courage and virtues of our brave fathers
and mothers. A thousand tender memories cluster about
them. Whittier, pleading for the old pioneer manhood,
takes his cue from one of these cabins and says beautifully
Against the wooded hill it stands,
Gost of a dead home, staring through
Its broken lights on wasted lands
Where old time harvests grew.
Of healthful herb and flower bereft,
The garden-plot no housewife keeps;
102 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
Through weeds and tangle only left,
The snake, its tenant, creeps.
A lilac-spray, once blossom clad,
Sways bare before the empty rooms;
Beside the roofless porch a sad.
Pathetic red rose blooms.
His track, in mould and dust of drouth.
On floor and hearth the squirrel leaves.
And in the fireless chimney's mouth
His web the spider weaves.
The leaning barn, about to fall,
Resounds no more on harvest eves.
No cattle low in yard or stall.
No thresher beats his sheaves.
So sad, so dread! It seems almost
Some haunting presence makes its sign;
That down yon shadowy lane some ghost
Might drive his spectral kine!
O home so desolate and lorn!
Did all thy memories die with thee?
Were any wed, were any born.
Beneath this low roof tree?
Whose axe the wall of forest broke.
And let the waiting sunshine through?
What good wife sent the earliest smoke
Up the great chimny-flue?
Did rustic lovers hither. come?
Did maidens, swaying back and fourth.
In rhythmic grace, at wheel and loom.
Make light their toil with mirth?
Did child-feet patter on the stair?
Did boyhood frolic in the snow?
Did gray age, in her elbow-chair.
Knit, rocking two and fro?
The murmuring brook, the sighing breeze.
The pine's low whisper, cannot tell;
Low mounds beneath the old yew-trees
Keep the home-secrets well.
With such sentiments awakened who would needlessly
lay a ruinous hand upon them, dead homes though they
STORY OF PRIMROSE.
R. M. LA FOLLETTE — A DISTINGUISHED SON.
No work that purports to be a history of Primrose
would be complete without a sketch of the distinguished
gentleman named above. Primrose claims him as her
son and the fact that she should have the honor of send-
ing one of the sons of her first generation into the high-
est councils of the nation, and that that son, though the
youngest in the august body in which he sat, should in
the space of a very few years become one of its recognized
leaders, is to her a matter of no small pride.
Robert Marion La Follette was born in Primrose, June
14, 1855, in a small log cabin on the farm at present owned
by Christ Engeland. He is the son of Josiah La Follette
104 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
and Mary (Ferguson) La Follette, and comes from good
French Canadian stock on his father's side. His father
died while Robert was but a year old (1856) and, in 1861.
Robert's mother removed to Argyle, Wisconsin.
Even as a boy, Robert was noted for his fascinating
power of making and holding friends. In school he was the
most brilliant in his classes and excelled especially in dra-
matic presentation, being greatly in demand at the spelling
schools, then so popular. In 1873 he attended a last few
days in school No. 1 in Primrose under N. A. Abbott.
Previous to 1873 his time was occupied in working on the
farm in the summer time and teaching school during the
winter. In that year he removed to Madison with his
mother, again a widow, and entered a private academy.
In 1875, he entered the State University, taking the gen-
eral science course. In the university he was active in
literary circles, being editor and part owner of the Uni-
versity Press. His great forte, however, lay in public
speaking, and in his senior year he won a most signal
triumph. Carrying off the highest honors at the univer-
sity oratorical contest, he went to the state contest at
Beloit and came off victorious over the best men of the
colleges of the state. This made him Wisconsin's repre-
sentative to the inter-state contest at Iowa City, Iowa, at
which Mr. La Follette again triumphed, this time over
the representatives of five states, all of whom had passed
through the same ordeal. His oration, " lago," was an
original, critical, and powerful delineation of that char-
acter, and even the great Edwin Booth once declared that
he had obtained new conceptions of it through Mr. La
Follette's exposition. Speaking of this contest, the Iowa
City Republican of May 8, 1879, said: " Mr. La Follette
bears away the golden badge of honor without one dis-
senting voice among the judges, and had the question
been put to the house, the unanimous answer would
have been, aye!" Perhaps the proudest moment of
STORY OF PRIMROSE 106
Mr. La Follette's life was when he stepped from the
train again at Madison. The university met him in a
body, accompanied by many of the most prominent men
of the city and he was escorted about the town amid un-
bounded enthusiasm and rejoicing. Speeches were made
by Hon. E. W. Keyes, Col. Wm. F. Vilas, Prof. Franken-
burger and others, and Geo. B. Smith summed up the
glories of the hour thus: " Mr. La Follette has honored
his associates in the university, he has honored the insti-
tution to which he belongs, he has honored the state of
Wisconsin, and above all, and many times more import-
ant than all else, he has honored his widowed mother."
On his graduation from the university, Mr. La Follette
read law in the office of R. M. Bashford, and on Feb. 5,
1880, was admitted to the bar. The same year he was
elected district attorney for Danie county, and for four
years served with consummate ability. In 1884 he was
elected to congress by the republicans of the third dis-
trict. He was the youngest man in the house, but so
strongly did his personality press forth that he was
recognized as the leader of the Wisconsin delegation
almost from the very start, and and in 1888 Speaker Reed
appointed him a member of the important committee of
ways and means and chairman of the committee on ap-
propriations for agriculture. In the political landslide of
1890, Mr. La Follette went down in the general ruin, un-
fortunately for Wisconsin. Since his retirement from
politics, Mr. La Follette has devoted himself to the duties
of an increasing law practice, having been employed on
practically all the important cases throughout this section
of the state. He is one of the recognized powers
of the state bar, being especially strong as a jury .lawyer.
His many friends insist that a brighter political career
than ever awaits him in the future. As one says, " he can
no more be kept down, than a cork can be kept under
STORY OF PRIMROSE.
Mr. La Follette is married to Belle Case, of Baraboo,
herself a graduate of the university, and admitted to the
bar. They have two children, a daughter and a son.
STORY OF PRIMROSE.
RECENT DEATHS. OF OLD SETTLERS — DIRECTORV OF NON-
Gool G. Gunhus, died August 17, 1882.
Born in Buskeruds Amt, Aggershus
Stift, Norway, March 30, 1836. Came
to America in 1849, worked a while in
Rock county, as a farm hand, at $3.00
per month, and lived on Jefferson
Prairie until 1854, when he came to
Primrose. June 8. 1862, he married
Gool G. Guniijs. Julia Lewis (Kolve),born Februarys,
1841, in Voss, Bergen Stift, Norway. They had two child-
ren, Clara T., now Mrs. K. B. Skuldt, and George B. At
his death Mr. Gunhus owned 329 acres of land and the
best farm house in Primrose. Was a republican; super-
visor in 1870-71, and a member of the Hauges Lutheran
Mrs. Mons Ness (Olson), died March 11, 1886. Born
April 14, 1828, in Aggershus, Norway. Came with par-
ents to Spring Valley, Wisconsin, in 1845.
Norman Randall, died December 23, 1886. Born in
Bridgewater, Oneida county. New York, December 24, 1809.
Married January 2, 1842, Maria Chandler. Came to Prim-
rose in 1851. Mr. Randall was a member of the Mt. Vernon
C. F. Weltzin, died Jan., 1891. Born in Stavanger
Amt, Norway, May 14, 1827; came with two brothers to
America in 1854, suffering from cholera at Quebec and
Chicago. Paid $170, in 1855, for his Primrose farm (sec.
108 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
29), then a wildnerness with only a roofless cabin on it.
Married Maria Johanneson, who died Dec. 3, 1867, leav-
ing five children. Maif ied again in 1871, Monsena Jen-
sen. They had six children. Mr. Weltzin was town
treasurer three years during the civil war.
Mons Halvorson (Ness), died in 1891. Born near
Christiana. Norway, Aug. 26, 1826. Came with family to
America in 1846; married Aug. 28, 1851, in Spring Valley,
Wis., Betsey Olson. Came to Primrose (sec. 32) in 1852,
very poor, but died well off.
Bjorn O. Skuldt, died in 1892. Came with his father,
Ole Skuldt, to Primrose in the earliest fifty's.
Gunnel Jackson, died near Canby, Minn., 1893. Came
to Primrose with his mother and brother George in May,
1849; remained until 1866. He was in some respects a re-
markable man. An educated man, he possessed a respect-
able library and was one of the first school teachers of the
day. A thorough Republican, he fearlessly advocated
negro emancipation long before the civil war and when
nearly all his neighbors were Democrats. He was an ex-
tensive traveler, having visited all the Norwegian settle-
ments in the country, and in 1854 crossed the plains to
Pike's Peak. He also served through the war of the re-
George Moore, died March, 1893. Came to Primrose
in the early fifties, settling on government land. A prom-
inent and wealthy farmer. Left a widow and four child-
Mrs. Julia Tollefson (Gunhus) , died April 8, 1893. Mrs.
T. was born near Dromme, Norway; married Gunof Tol-
lefson, April 26, 1850, and came to Primrose in October,
of the same year.
Lars L. Kolve, died at Mt. Horeb, Wis., Feb. 7, 1894.
Born May 3, 1818, at Kolve, Voss, Norway. Married in
1838, Breta Kvarkval; came to America in 1850. Mr.
Kolve lived two years at Muskego, Racine county, and
STORY OF PRIMROSE.
during 1851 helped lay the plank road from Racine to
Milwaukee. In 1852 he came to Primrose and settled in
Mrs. Mary Saxton, died at Madison, April 21, 1894;
"The death of Mrs. Mary La Follette Saxton, which
occurred at the home of Judge Siebecker, in Madison,
last Saturday morning, removes a noble woman and an-
other of the pioneers of Primrose. Her maiden name
was Mary Ferguson. She was born in Indiana, Nov. 2,
1818, of a North Carolina father and a Maryland mother.
In 1840 she married Alexander Buchanan, who died a
year later, leaving a daughter, Ellen, now Mrs. D. H.
Eastman. In 1846, she married Josiah La Follette, of
Mt. Sterling, Ky., and in 1849 they came to Primrose,
settling upon the farm at present owned by Christ Enge-
land. The La Follettes, who figured so conspicuously in
110 STORY OF PRIMROSE.
the early history of Primrose, were loved and honored
by their neighbors, for their ability, kindness and purity
" Josiah La FoUette served as chairman and town clerk,
and his wife was active in church and school matters. The
harshness and privations of pioneer life were softened to
many by their kind ministrations. In 1853, Josephine,
now Mrs. Judge R. G. Siebecker, was born, and June 14,
1855, Robert M. La Follette was born. In 1856, consump-
tion carried off her second husband, and for six years she
conducted the farm alone, with the assistance of her son,
William, about ten years of age. In 1862, she married
John Z. Saxton, of Argyle, Wisconsin, and rejnoved to
that place. In 1870, with her husband, she returned to
the Primrose homestead, and three years later was again
left a widow, her husband dying at the advanced age of
82. In 1873, she removed to Madison, that her children
might enter the University. The brilliant career of her
youngest son. from this period on, and the esteem in which
her other children were held, must have been a source of
pride and comfort to her in her old age. Her remains
were laid to rest in the Forest Hill cemetery, and a large
number of people of all classes were in attendance at the
funeral.'* — Mt, Horeb Times.
Charles Harker, died May 28, 1894. Mr. Harker was
born Aug. 9, 1823, in Ellerby, Yorkshire, England; came
to America in 1849; was in Canada and Illinois until
1854, when he settled in Primrose, on section 7. Married
June, 1852, in Waukesha county, Elizabeth*^||yrnell, born
January, 1833, in Withenwick, Yorkshire, c^pfe to Muk-
wonago. Wis., 1837. Mr. and Mrs. Harker -had nine
STORY OF PRIMROSE. Ill
DIRECTORY OF NON-RESIDENT PIONEERS.
J. Anderson Spears, Northfield, Minn.
Mrs. Maria (Spears) Norris, Otranto, Iowa.
Jacob Nofsinger, Valley, Wis.
William R. Spears, Moscow, Wis.
Isaac D. Spears, Eagle Grove, Iowa.
Robert Ashmore, Osage, Iowa.
Charles Lewis, Brodhead, Wis.
W. W. Patchin, Magnolia, Wis.
John Jones, Mt. Vernon, Wis.
Thomas Jones, Mt. Vernon, Wis.
Ole Nelson, Slater, Iowa.
Mr. and Mrs. D. H. Eastman, Ola, S. D,
Ashley C. Thomas, Wyoming, Wis.
.Eliphalet A. Thomas, Woonsocket, S. D.
Mrs. Harriet A. (Thomas) Willis, Woonsocket, S. D.
Mrs. Mary L. Parkinson, Fayette, Wis.
Freeman Ash, Westley, Iowa.
Clarke J. Lewis, Mt. Vernon, Wis.
Peter Bell, Albany, Wis.
Joseph A. Britts, Foxboro, Minn.
E. M. Britts, Verndale, Minn.
Gunof Tollefson, Mt. Horeb, Wis.
Philander Nash, Magnolia, Wis.
Andrew Nash, Tina, Wis.
Mrs. Alvina (Nash) Phillips, 844 Richard St., Milwaukee.
Harris D. Smith, Albany, Wis.
Mrs. Sophia (Smith) Comstock, Albany, Wis.
C. E. Patchin, Nashville, Minn.
J. Patchin, Nashville, Minn.
Henry Hendrickson,Sheldahl, la.
Mrs. Caroline A. Osmundsen, Estherville, la.
Moses Chandler, Red Oak, la.
R. B. Chandler, Oregon, Wis.
B. F. Thomas, Tomah, Wis.
STORY OF PRIMROSE.
Mrs. Matilda E. Arnold, Spring Green, Wis.
Mrs. C. S. Pope, Arena, Wis.
Nils N. Skogen, Blue Earth City, Minn.
Anun Gullickson, Harvard, Neb.
Mr. and Mrs. Anun Jorgenson, Clear Lake, la.
Mrs. Kari Oscars (Jorgenson), Belleville, Wis.
Einar Nelson, Menomonie, Wis.
George Jackson. Beloit, Wis,
H. O. Skuldt, Mt. Horeb, Wis.
Ole G. Stamn, New Glarus, Wis.
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